Fifteen Ways to Brighten the World Around You

7 Apr

source (be sure to visit, there’s a new one every weekday!)

So you’ve read the Self Happiness Manifesto articles for the past seven weeks. You’re smiling all over the place, you’re handling criticism like a pro and taking responsibility for your actions… you’re feeling pretty spectacular. What do you do now? One of the best things you could do is pay it forward and send that positive energy beaming to the people around you! Here are fifteen things you can probably do now (or in the near future) to make someone else’s day a bit brighter:

1. Smile – This is obviously the most basic, so I’ll list this one first. I have already documented why it’s a good idea to smile more, but notably, it can have a great effect on others! You don’t have to direct an intense, mega-watt grin to whomever passes by – that actually might come off as creepy, if I can be honest. But keeping an easy, breezy smile on your face can do wonders! If anyone asks, say you’re having a great day; they can’t argue that one. You’d be surprised how often your smile will rub off on someone else. Plus, it opens the opportunity to add a friendly “Hello, how are you?” to the people you pass, which believe me, goes a very long way sometimes.

2. Give a compliment – And I mean a sincere one! When I was in middle school, I co-founded a club called the “Good Karma Group”. One of our club pillars, so to speak, was to pass good will around the school, by way of paying compliments. The idea was to get in one, genuine, compliment a day. It can be someone you know well, like your parents, your friends, a boyfriend or girlfriend, but hey, why stop there? Why not compliment a stranger on the street? A good way to start, if you are a young woman, is to compliment another young woman (if you feel so inclined). While I’m not going to lump us all into the “Mean Girls” category, a lot of girls tend to harbor vicious thoughts about one another out of some misplaced form of competition. A genuine compliment (even as simple as, “That’s a really cool purse – where’d you get it?”) can brighten someone’s day and even open opportunity for conversation.

3. Say “thank you”! – And by extension, also use the word “please”. I firmly believe that the two most underused words in the English language (and probably many other languages) are please and thank you. While you may say thanks (I hope!) for something like a birthday present, what about the courteous person who held the door open for you in the store? Or the person that provided you with a service? (Bus driver, house keeper, mailperson…) Many times people forget about these people because what they do seems like a given – but it isn’t. Extending simple gratitude can work wonders in making people feel appreciated, which brings us to…

4. Acknowledge someone’s hard work – According to Dale Carnegie (who wrote books that I highly recommend), one of the most important feelings that a person craves is appreciation and/or recognition. To know that what they do means something is a very profound emotion. Take the time to let someone know that you appreciate what they do! Whether it is a simple thank you or maybe something more elaborate (a card, candy, flowers, perhaps?), everyone would love to know that they aren’t taken for granted. If you are a college student living in a residence hall, look into joining the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH), because one of their main purposes is to recognize the people who deserve it. (The back of my NRHH t-shirt even says “You better recognize!”)

5. Give encouragement – This relates to the previous two points. Knowing someone is in your corner, even if it is a simple statement like, “You can do it, I believe in you!” can go a long way. And while you can’t build someone’s confidence by yourself (that’s something they have to do themselves), maybe that little boost of self-esteem can be the push that they needed.

6. Help someone – This one can be easy. While you may not have time to embark in a full-fledged volunteer project (more on that later), extending a hand is very simple, yet very effective. Offer to hold something for someone that looks particularly frazzled, give advice on simple decisions, do a good deed. Once, I paid for someone’s lunch when they forgot their meal card – I’d like to think it meant a lot to him (He said later, “Thank you so much, girl-I-don’t-even-know!”) even though it was only five dollars off of my meal plan.

7. Clean up around the community – Do your part! The easiest thing to do is to refrain from littering. Throw away your garbage and if you have a dog, make sure to pick up after it! But if you see an empty chip bag lying next to a trash can, throw it in! Take the afternoon to take part in an organized neighborhood cleanup or if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, get a group together and join an Adopt a Block program.

8. Recycle – One thing I do know is that making significant investments to “green” yourself may be impractical or expensive, especially if you are a student. However, many neighborhoods and schools have recycling programs in place already, so all you have to do is use them. You can also save plastic by refraining from using disposable water bottles, investing in one you can reuse, instead or buying reusable grocery bags, instead of contributing to the eight-hundred million that are used by Americans alone. (Pro tip: Store your reusable bags in your car, backpack or purse, so you won’t be without them on a last-minute shopping trip.) Consider thrifting instead of buying new – often times you can get a well-made, unique piece for cheap! For other ideas, The Daily Green has you covered.

9. Call a loved one or a friend – Technology is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Loved ones are a simple phone call away. However, that doesn’t mean that some of us don’t sometimes lose touch. You can always send an email, but that’s a lot more impersonal – it’s much better to hear someone’s voice. Also, you never know if someone’s feeling lonely and would really appreciate your call. And like I said before, it can mean a lot to know that you took the time to contact them. If calling isn’t doing it for you, you could go a step further and use a video call service like Skype – it’s a free download and you can make free video calls to other Skype customers.

10. Write a letter –  I’m a huge fan of mailing postcards, letters and cards. It’s an older form of correspondence, yes, and it is much less efficient than emails or calls, but the personalization involved goes a lot further. If it’s someone’s birthday, plan and mail them a card! (Facebook sends out a weekly digest of your friends’ birthdays, to make things easier.) And think about, who doesn’t like getting a nice card in the mail?

11. Plant a flower or buy a plant – Plants work wonders when it comes to brightening a space. If you live in a dorm or apartment, you can view a list of dorm-friendly plants here. Planting flowers where they can flourish for others is even better. Try googling “guerilla gardening” and see what you find.

12. Leave an Operation Beautiful noteOperation Beautiful is a project where people write empowering, uplifting messages anonymously and leave them for other people to find. It’s super easy, requires very little investment and could mean a lot to somebody! If you don’t know what to write, there are plenty of examples on the website, as well as ideas of places you can leave your note. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the founder graduated from the University of Pittsburgh…

13. Exercise common courtesy – Whoever said chivalry is dead? Another form of behavior that can start small but make a large impact, using proper manners is a great way to lift someone else’s mood! Hold the door for the person walking behind you, say “please” and “thank you” when necessary, and avoid fits of rage and rudeness when possible. Really, it’s not so hard! Bonus: Get into the habit of making thank-you notes.

14. Listen to people – I wrote an entire article about the art of listening. Quoted: Everyone has a unique way of expressing their point to the world. Unless you allow them to share their unique perspective – and actively attempt to interact with and understand it – there is no way to appreciate how precious every single person is. Listen to them! Someone will appreciate it, I promise.

15. Donate to Charity – A little gift can go a long way. If you can spare a dollar or two, give it to someone who needs it much more than you do. If you don’t, try websites like The Hunger Site and Free Rice, where you can give for free. An obvious cause would be the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. Wonderful organizations include Doctors without Borders and Save the Children. There are many other causes out there worth supporting though – just make sure to do your research if you plan on donating to a charitable organization. A good place to start is Charity Navigator.

Anything to add? Post it in the comments!

Until next time,

xoxo, Tara

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