6 ways you can use your spare time to make a difference and feel good about yourself in the process

·5-min read
Credit: Getty
Credit: Getty

In association with American Express

The past couple of years have led many of us to re-evaluate our lives and our priorities. While learning to focus on ourselves is becoming increasingly important, so too is the understanding that we can improve our mental wellbeing by helping others.

“The pandemic forced many of us to look into our lives and our situations, so a lot of people now are coming out and thinking, ‘OK how can I give back to my community?’” says Hattie MacAndrews, confidence and mindset coach.

“Giving some of your time, energy or money, that’s easing into a new sense of community, one that not only feels very safe and secure but is around people who are probably all feeling the same as you and all wanting to do something for the greater good of others. It’s about forming that new sense of coming together.”

Not sure where to start? Here are six ways you can use your spare time to make a difference and add value to your life as well as someone else’s.

Credit: Getty
Credit: Getty

Think about what motivates you

Too often, we do things because we think we’re supposed to. We say yes to loaning someone money we might not have or take on an extra work project because we feel that makes us look better to our bosses.

Recognising what you value and what makes you tick is a key first step in determining what you can do to make a difference in someone else’s life - one that will leave you feeling more fulfilled when it comes to your own.

Credit: Getty
Credit: Getty

Help in your community - however big or small

You can’t do everything, much as you’d like to, so focusing your efforts on the community you’re a part of can be a helpful starting point.

Now, your community can be as small or big as you want it to be. Helping someone out might involve spending time with the neighbour up the road, volunteering for school fundraisers or giving back to your weekend sports team or choir.

Your community can reflect the city you’re a part of or the place you came from, but one key thing to remember is that what your community looks like now may not be what it did 20 months ago. Your priorities may have shifted to hyper-focus on one small group of people… or they could have widened more globally thanks to technology.

Credit: Getty
Credit: Getty

Confront the loneliness

Engaging with a community not only helps others but is also important for our own well-being. Being lonely looks like different things to different people - and your sense of what makes you feel fulfilled emotionally may have shifted throughout these past 20 months, so it could take a bit of time to figure out.

“Whatever it is, it’s about starting to look for ways that make you feel satisfied with that sense of community and being around others,” says MacAndrews.

Credit: Getty
Credit: Getty

Use your skill sets - and the time you have

Adding value for others might not always involve directly interacting with lots of people. In fact, that might be the last thing you want to do if you’re feeling socially overwhelmed. That doesn’t mean you can’t help out in other ways. If there’s a particular organisation or charity you want to work with, use your skills in marketing, admin or communication to give back, assuming you have some spare time, advises MacAndrews. At this stage, that might also mean helping an organisation remotely rather than face-to-face.

If you’re time-poor and too busy with work and other commitments to take on a voluntary side project, you can still help others out easily by clicking a link and making a donation to a charity of your choice or one a close friend is supporting.

Credit: Getty
Credit: Getty

Try something new

Reading. Painting. Learning a new musical instrument. Discovering a sport you love. Many of us have had the opportunity to discover personal enrichment through hobbies in recent months, which have yielded numerous benefits, potentially helping with stress relief and confidence. As you re-evaluate how you want to live your life in this new normal, you may want to consider what you enjoyed doing in your free time before the pandemic, and what’s changed.

“It’s about trying to take what element you enjoyed and bringing it into your life today and easing yourself back in,” explains MacAndrews. Finding a hobby you like can help you discover fulfilment in other aspects of your life besides career and relationships, as well as introducing you to new people and communities.

Credit: Getty
Credit: Getty

Don’t worry about planning it all out

The temptation to have it “all figured out” (even when it comes to our self-care and how we give to others), can be overwhelming at times. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in what the end goal is that we struggle to get started at all. This can be so powerful that it happens even when we’re trying to rest (see: revenge bedtime procrastination, where people delay sleep to try to accomplish everything they didn’t have time for in the day).

Don’t view helping others as another stressor on your busy to-do list. You don’t need to have every Saturday booked up for the next several months to show your commitment to a cause; an impromptu visit to a friend in need can be just as beneficial as something you’ve planned for weeks. If you need to focus on yourself before you can give back to others, that’s OK, too.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting