5 Easy Ways To Make A Difference In Less Than 5 Minutes

The Challenge: We want to make a difference, but we just don’t have time!
The Science: Making a difference is not just good for others. It’s incredibly good for us too!
The Solution: Here are 5 easy ways to make a difference from your desk in under 5 minutes!

We know that making a difference and helping others makes us feel good and is good for the world. Compassion, in addition to making an incredible difference to those around you, is also one of the greatest secrets to health and happiness (as I described in this post). But sometimes it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to engage in any kind of altruism. There is so much to do; can I possibly find time to contribute? Well actually, yes! Thanks to the internet, in minutes, at no or low cost, and from your desk, you can contribute, even daily! Here are some ideas!

1. Lend a few dollars, and change someone’s life.

Lending money on a micro-finance portal supports people from around the world in achieving their dreams in as little as $5 or $10 loans. Watch as that person grows their business and transform their lives. Check out websites like kiva.org for microloans that you will see change others’ lives or Heifer International to gift a farm animal that will help a family self-sustain in a developing country.

2. Free clicks to help.

The GreaterGood website is set up to help people make a difference in a few seconds. Through just one click and with no cost on your part, you can help feed animalsfight breast cancer, autism, and hungersupport veteranshelp rain forests, and even more. Bookmark these sites and spend a few seconds clicking to start your day on the right foot. You can also purchase inexpensive items from the website’s stores to contribute funds to the cause of your choosing.

3. Express your gratitude.

Did you know that gratitude will not only benefit others but it will also benefit you? Gratitude has been linked to higher well-being and lower depression. There are family members, colleagues, or even just acquaintances that we see daily and appreciate yet we forget to tell them. Thank people for what they do, not just as lip service, but sincerely. If you are too shy to do so, send a thank you email or letter, a small gift, or even flowers. Such small gestures can go a really long way.

4. Smile.

Research shows that when you smile (whether it’s real or fake), you feel better, reduce your own stress, but also uplift others! How? Research shows that your smile activates the smile muscles in others. Have you ever had that awkward moment where you walk down the hall, smile at someone, and they don’t smile back? Sure, you might feel embarrassed, but don’t! Internally, you have made them smile, and chances are, they may smile at the next person they meet down that hall.

5. Uplift others.

Look around and make someone’s day. It really doesn’t take much. Post an uplifting quote or story on Facebook, buy someone a cup of coffee, ask someone how they are and listen to them with full attention, or pay for the person behind you at a Starbucks drive-thru. Not only will you make their day and feel good yourself, but research shows that anyone who witnesses your act of kindness will feel inspired and elevated and, by feeling so, will be more likely to help others.   Warning: you may be creating a vicious circle of kindness and compassion and triggering a trend!

I recently gave a TEDx talk on why compassion is one of the greatest ways secrets to happiness. You can watch it here.

Do you have other great tips on how to do good fast and from your desk for busy people? Leave me a comment, and I’ll add it in!

Emma Seppälä
EMMA SEPPÄLÄ, Ph.D. is the author of The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success and Science Director of Stanford University's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. She also teaches at Yale University and consults with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. She founded Fulfillment Daily and a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review and Psychology Today.
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