Charity challenges, like the 330km cycle ride I take part in each year, combine extended physical activity, health awareness campaigns and fundraising for health charities.
Having to prepare for the event, training for it and raising money for the charity challenges you in so many different ways. You get to develop a part of yourself that might otherwise get left behind in day-to-day life.
There is a physical health aspect as well as a mental wellbeing aspect.
Charity challenges are a form of lifestyle movement, a means of fostering change through individual action. Change is to the forefront of many people’s thoughts as we head into a new year.
My research involves the evaluation of direct and indirect health benefits of charity challenge events. I am in the early stages of a new study with Griffith colleague Dr Kevin Filo investigating how a participant connects with the different elements involved in charity challenges.
The early indications show participants develop an overwhelming sense of connection with the cause they are fundraising for and also a strong connection with the other people taking part in the challenge. There is also a significant connection with the values you develop yourself as part of the process.
Positive psychology associated with charity challenges is increasingly recognised in terms of engagement, a sense of achievement, doing something meaningful, developing positive emotions and building relationships.
Anyone considering a charity challenge as their New Year’s resolution should ask themselves two questions.
First, is there a cause you feel strongly about? Have you a family member or friend who has been affected by illness to whom you want to make a commitment?
The other important question is what is your preferred sport or activity?
Fundraising is also part of the challenge. You need to be proactive and committed, but the sense of satisfaction to be gained from thinking about innovative ways to raise money and meet your fund-raising targets can be enormous. And the fundraising can be fun. It is important, however, to keep your cause in mind when coming up with novel fundraising ideas.
The size and scope of charity challenges can vary enormously, from a cycling weekend in your local area to several weeks’ trekking.
I would encourage anyone taking on a charity challenge for the first time to do a local, community event.