Mindful Community Participation

Volunteering Makes Us Happy & Healthier

We all crave a personal sense of meaning. One of the easiest ways to discover is to activate your kindness through volunteering. We are starting to reach critical mass of research about the accrued benefits of active benevolence. ‘Helper Therapy’ for example, is a core tenant of a variety of 12 step programs. Data derived from Project Match shows that recovering alcoholics engaged with supporting other alcoholics were 2x’s more successful in maintaining sobriety a year later than their unengaged peers. (For those unfamiliar: Within AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, its possible to volunteer to sponsor newer participants and uphold a mentorship relationship.) In the emerging field of PNI, (psychoneuroimmunology, the study of stress and happiness on immune function) we have a growing body of studies demonstrating that cultivating positive emotions enhances immune and central nervous system function. Therefore, through finding the ideal social causes you care about and mindful volunteering, we make a difference that brings happiness. In addition, we meet others who share our sentiments for these causes and these friendships are therapeutic.

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Mindfully Kind Volunteering Pays Dividends

Experience Enhances Skills

Volunteer programs offer valuable free training in order to support you in becoming a skilled member of the team. This means basic training for volunteer fire fighters, medics, crisis-line operators, and search and rescue teams. In a survey carried out by TimeBank, among 200 of the UK’s leading businesses reported: 73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without and 94% of employers believe that volunteering adds skills.

Free Passive Therapy

Altruistic volunteers who have found their favorite cause, experience a layered benefit. According to neuroscientist Dr. Alex Korb, Ph.D. and author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time,  says its possible to give your mind an upward spiral of small steps and actions that cause more experiences of joy. Hence, volunteering can become an affordable therapy for building contentment.

Commitment Proves Values

When employers see volunteer experience on a resume, they are more confident of you having strong values, being motivated and hardworking. In a study between 2002 – 2012, the Corporation for National and Community Service tracked 70,000 jobless people and found that those who volunteered had a 27% stronger chance of getting hired.

Connections Create Opportunities

Those who discover their volunteering passion, invariably end up expanding their social network of like minded people. This can mean valuable connections who are aware of your personality and work ethic possibly leading to a key referral for a future job, friendship, or a romantic partner opportunity. 

Study Proving Health Benefits of Volunteering for Retired Adults

Started in 1996, Experience Corps is an award-winning program that places teams of older adults in urban public schools as tutors and mentors. Currently, more than 1,000 Experience Corps members are volunteering in 100 elementary and middle schools in 18 cities across the country. But the program was also designed to help keep retired adults healthy and active in the community, say the Johns Hopkins researchers.

“Evidence is mounting that remaining active and engaged is beneficial as one ages, but our society has not developed approaches that support such activity for the broad spectrum of older adults,” says Fried. “That’s why we were eager to see if this program might work to provide such benefits.”

To test whether Experience Corps reduces key aging risk factors declines in physical, cognitive, and social activity a research team designed a two-year pilot study that compared 128 Experience Corps volunteers, ages 60 to 86, to a comparable control group.

Participants in the study volunteered at six Baltimore public schools, helping children in kindergarten to grade three. The volunteers were organized into teams and worked in the schools 15 hours per week, usually over three to four days. They were trained to help children improve their reading skills, to help pick out books, to solve problems and play cooperatively. A small stipend of $150 to $200 a month was offered to the volunteers to reimburse for expenses.

“44% of Experience Corps participants reported feeling stronger, compared with 18% of controls, and there was a 13% increase in those who reported their strength as very good to excellent.”
To determine any health advantages that came with participation, the researchers evaluated the control and intervention groups before and after the trial. They found that 98 percent of participants in the intervention group reported being satisfied with their experience, and 80 percent returned the following year. Such a high retention rate reflects the “health promotion potential” of Experience Corps, the researchers say.

The investigators also found evidence for short-term change in health outcomes. Among them:

  • At follow-up, 44 percent of Experience Corps participants reported feeling stronger, compared with 18 percent of controls, and there was a 13 percent increase in those who reported their strength as very good to excellent, versus a 30 percent decline among controls.
  • Cane use decreased in 50 percent of users in the intervention group, compared with 20 percent in the control group. Falls also decreased.
  • In terms of social activity, Experience Corps volunteers reported a significant increase, compared to a decline in the control group, in the number of people they felt they could turn to for help.
  • In measuring cognitive benefit, the researchers say that increases in cognitive activities in the school were not offset by a decrease in book reading and other such mental activities at home in participants. TV viewing, considered the “most common low intensity activity,” declined by 4 percent in volunteers and increased by 18 percent in the control group.

While Experience Corps may be expensive for the short-term health improvements it offers volunteers, when potential benefits for students and possible long-term benefits are factored in, the program could be highly cost-effective, say Johns Hopkins researchers.

Types Of Volunteering All Communities Need

It’s worth highlighting that volunteering provides valuable micro-experiences that fill in the blanks of life. For example, some of us do not have grandparents, but fostering a quality connection with the right elderly person can be a profound micro-substitute for that missing grandparent relationship. Likewise with adults, some don’t have small children in their lives, but really enjoy youngster’s energy. Volunteering with the right program can satisfy that need. Or if you’re young, but working age and jobs are scarce in your area, volunteering can boost your skills, net you more references and increase your chances of getting a desired position. Service organizations provide a wide range of volunteering opportunities to act with kindness. For example, the motto of Rotary International is ‘Service over self.’

Rotary International Logo, Mindful Community Participation

Mentor Kids With Kindfulness

volunteering, mindful community participation

Various programs exist to assist kids at various growth stages. Big Brothers Big Sisters meets the needs of at risk youth who come from low income or single parent families. There are programs just to visit with sick kids who are on extended stay at the hospital. Find out what programs exist in your town, or what volunteer opportunities are available within your local school district.


  • Sharing Your Skills & Experience
  • Validate Kid’s Abilities And Interests
  • Experiencing Their Fresh Perspectives

They are a variety of programs that offer many choices in supporting our elders. Meal delivery, driving support to and from doctor appointments, or friendly visits. Step into another era and hear about their best romances or how they survived raising seven children. Or listen in fascination to the kinds of favorite jobs they held, (for all you know, they are in fact one of the original Rockettes from Broadway.)


  • Multi-Generational Stories
  • Casual Life Wisdom Chats
  • The Feeling Of Mutual Acceptance

Bring Kindness To Visiting Our Elders

volunteering, mindful community participation

Addressing Economic Inequality

volunteering, mindful community participation

Various programs exist to prevent homelessness for low income families, such as Habitat For Humanity, and various programs serve the homeless such as shelters and feeding programs. The added value here is to experience the inside of this culture. People become homeless for so many reasons beyond their control; escaping abuse, rising costs & poverty wages, unresolved medical issues, LGBTQ youth that are rejected by their conservative families, unresolved PTSD from wartime trauma, or not being able to get work after prison release. It’s important to recognize how vulnerable we actually are by helping out in these parts of our community.


  • Learning Fair Assumptions Towards The Homeless
  • Experience How Big Gratitude Can Be From One Who Is Desitute
  • Experience Fresh Perspectives About Having Nothing

There are a variety of opportunities to work with animals in your area. The zoo and animal shelters need volunteers. Sometimes a neighbor with land and horses could use some help. Just because you may not be able to have pets, doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to interact with animals on a part time basis. Ask around in your community to see what is possible.


  • Playing With Animals
  • Getting To Interact With Rare Animals
  • The Feeling Of Mutual Acceptance

Animal Shelter + Zoo

volunteering, mindful community participation

Emergency Back Up

volunteering, mindful community participation

Every community needs back up help for extreme circumstances. This is why we have search and rescue teams, crisis line support, volunteer fire fighters, and medics for special events. If you have an interest in being an emergency back up, look up your local departments to see what catches your interest and find out what volunteer positions are available.


  • Learn Life Saving Skills
  • Enjoy Events Free By Volunteering At The Medic Booth
  • Meet More Of Your Tribe

Ever volunteered

Find The Ideal Volunteering Opportunity Today

Getting matched with the right volunteer project to best leverage your skills with the things you are most passionate about, is the sweet spot we’re after! It’s remarkably easy to match yourself to the right opportunity, if you want a local volunteering position, start at VolunteerMatch.org. Or you can be matched by skill sets to a non-profit project at Catchafire, or if you prefer to plan a vacation around it, MovingWorlds.org has a matching program for volunteerism abroad!

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catchafire, volunteering, mindful community participation
moving worlds, volunteering, mindful community participation

Ready For Changes?
Being Mindfully Kind Can Permanently Upgrade The Way You Interact With Your Local & Global Community

The following resources represent the backstory of mindfully kind habits tested in maximum security prison, and six years of gathering the best international research towards making these principles accessible.

Saint Badass, mindful living

Saint Badass

Hear the backstory of how Roy, a life sentence serving inmate met Doug, a retired university professor, and started the journey of testing mindful kindness under the severest circumstances. The history of abuse, retaliation and transcendence without physically leaving a maximum security prison is breath taking.

  • True Story
  • Maximum Security Prison Culture Experience
  • The Power Of Practicing Mindful Kindness Under Severe Duress

Learn More + Read An Excerpt

How Love Wins

Kindness is underestimated by many cultures, but mixed with certain qualities, it’s extremely powerful. In the research-based work of How Love Wins, Doug Carnine, PhD explains how fusing mindful kindness into everyday living has a profound upgrading effect to all you do and how you feel.

  • How Sustainable Giving Works
  • Weaken Unkind Habits While Strengthening Kind Habits
  • Improve Your Capacity For Connection With Others

Learn More + Read An Excerpt
If you’re already considering a vacation around volunteering at a rescue for elephants, you’ve evolved already!


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