“I feel like a different person – it’s been life-changing.”
That’s the verdict of an agoraphobic resident who after years of professional treatment for her condition has seen her life transformed thanks to local activity sessions.
Diana takes part in weekly dance machine sessions and walks which are co-ordinated by Central Bedfordshire Council, with the walks led by volunteers.
The dance sessions are held at Shefford Sports Club, in Hitchin Road, every Monday from 2pm, with the weekly walks taking place in the town, and all last around 45 minutes.
Diana said: “The physical and mental effects of doing exercise – albeit it only for 40 minutes – plus meeting new people and being able to participate in a ‘normal life’, having coffee and chatting, have been life-changing for me.
“As an agoraphobic person who has suffered for nearly 30 years and has had years of professional treatment, I can’t praise Central Beds enough for what they have given me.
“I wish I’d known about all this years ago because my mental health has improved more in the 18 months I’ve been participating in your activities than at any previous time in my life. I am nowhere near cured but I do so much more than I used to and I feel like a different person.
“It goes without saying I have met so many new people at all these activities and that has a hugely beneficial effect on one’s mental health. Many of these people have become good friends.”
Weekly walks take place in a number of locations across Central Beds, including Shefford.
One of the volunteer leaders said: “For me, seeing new faces, seeing the pleasure and benefits these activities brought to the various groups gave me personal satisfaction.
“I would encourage people to consider volunteering if they have the time and energy to regularly attend an existing group or to set up their own activity group. The personal contacts, the support the groups offer their fellow members is fantastic to see and be a part of.”
The walks are just one of many activities listed in the new Fit for life 50+ brochure. You can download a copy and find out more about staying active at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/active
The benefits of connecting with others, being active and giving are all clear, and that’s why they are all focuses of the Five Ways to Wellbeing campaign. Launched last May, the three-year campaign offers simple but proven ways to improve your physical and mental health. It is being promoted in a joint campaign by the council, Public Health and other local agencies.
For more information about Five Ways to Wellbeing, visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/mentalhealth
Peter Fraser, Head of Partnerships, Community Engagement and Youth Support at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “Stories like this demonstrate the magic of volunteering and the life-changing impact it can have on residents’ lives.
“This is just one of the reasons why the council is organising its second Cheering Volunteering event to celebrate and say thank you to the many people who give their time to help others. If you know anyone who helps to make the lives of other people, or our environment better for everyone then please go online and get nominating.”
By following the link you can nominate volunteers for an award and also order free tickets to the awards and celebration evening which will be held at the Grove Theatre, in Dunstable, on Tuesday, 7 June 2016.
You can also download the new Volunteering for CBC Handbook and find links to different ways of volunteering.