Many years ago around Christmas time, I spent some time working as a volunteer at a local Toronto Mission. My mission? Assist low-income individuals and families in collecting donated groceries and toys for the holiday season. I had been going through a stressful time back then, and thought doing something that would allow me to help others might help me to feel better as well. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with this idea. It was nearly impossible to find a ‘seasonal’ volunteer position at all that year! The Mission spots had filled up fast for the month of December, and the few spots they had left were being zapped up faster than the latest version of the iPhone (I’m sure it was version 1 back then, so it was probably just called…The iPhone). Anyway, what was interesting is that the rest of the calendar year for volunteer spots at the Mission was totally free.
It seems the holidays have become a singled-out time of year where people scramble about in a quest to inhale as much spirit and goodwill as possible. Not terrible in theory, but what about the other 11 months of the year? In what are many people’s zany, fast-paced, and unpredictable worlds today, and where so many are searching for ways to feel happier and add meaning to their lives, it begs the question: What is the best way that people can be happier and make a positive statement all year round?One of the easiest and most effective ways that people can improve feelings of happiness and give back to society is by doing something that costs us minimal time and effort: Through small and simple acts of kindness, each and every day. By just being kind, considerate and caring to our fellow human beings, we can make vast improvements to our mood and truly make a difference in a troubled world. Research has shown that pro-social behaviours (i.e. helping others, kindness, and donating time or resources to charity) have been linked to significant personal mental health benefits, including increased feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment in life.
So the next time you see someone struggling with a bunch of grocery bags, offer to help. See someone short on change at the cash register in front of you? Offer to donate what they are missing to them. Spend time with family and children. Reach out to colleagues and people you interact with every day. Don’t be shy. Smile, and say hello. Pay someone a genuine compliment – don’t hold it inside your head as a thought. People appreciate it, and small acts of kindness and genuine warmth and sincerity stay with people – both giver and recipient – long after they have been bestowed.Avoid restricting generosity of time and money to gift-giving occasions. Instead, carry your “goodwill toward man” into 2015 and well beyond by incorporating acts of kindness and generosity into your daily routine year round. I guarantee you will see and feel the effect.
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