5 Small Ways to Make a Better World

Photo by Hybrid on Unsplash

Too many times in a day we look down at our phones and see a string of news notifications that leave us feeling like the world is a dark, bleak place: destructive bushfires in Australia, terror attacks on innocent civilians, floods, and droughts. Recent news stories even triggered fears that world war 3 was in the works. While staying up to date on the news is important, sometimes it feels as if there is truly only evil occurring in this world. Some may argue this is the responsibility of the media outlets themselves, but to be honest, the likelihood this pessimistic outlook will change is slim to none. This is what we call the negativity bias: when events of equal intensity occur; one causing negative emotion and the other of positive emotion; the negative emotion tends to have a greater psychological impact on us.

Lucky for us, there are ways to counteract this gloominess. They don’t require solving world hunger or suddenly becoming Oprah overnight. (As cool as that would be) We found that by shifting our attention to just five small actions, the world becomes just a little bit brighter. These may sound minuscule, but when experienced the feeling is powerful… or you might even already be aware of it. In that case, stay tuned for some opportunities on how to keep that feeling going…

  1. Smile at others

Smiling is contagious. We don’t care what anyone else says, when someone smiles at us, there is some spark that is then transferred over. Think to when the opposite occurs — someone gives us a scowl as if we’ve offended their entire family and then some — the feelings we get are usually pretty awful ones. Smiling can happen anywhere, whether it is on the subway, whilst walking our dog, or shopping for groceries. A smile can really make a difference to someone’s day or even save their life. Smiling can even have physical effects on the body. When one smiles, a chemical reaction occurs in the brain, which releases serotonin and dopamine, in turn reducing feelings of stress and increased feelings of happiness. If you don’t believe it, try searching ‘people smiling’ on Unsplash, it is impossible not to crack a smile, at least a small one. (we may or may not have tried this in the office.)

2. Treat yourself better

Getting our hair done, signing up for an exercise class, whipping up a hearty homecooked meal, or even just looking at ourselves in the mirror and telling ourselves we look good (because, hey, we really do). When we treat ourselves nicely, we feel more inclined to treat others nicely, who will then treat others nicely and so forth. It has a real domino effect. When we don’t want to prioritize the funds to treat ourselves, we simply practice positive thinking, especially in moments when we are feeling particularly low. Acting as if we like ourselves is the first step to genuinely liking ourselves. And remember: we have value, even when we are unable to see it, we have a beating heart and a functioning brain — we are meant to be here.

3. Volunteer

We all know the feeling we get after completing an intense workout. Our endorphins are rushing and we feel like we can conquer the world. We’ve found that volunteering can also provide that same feeling. While we aren’t necessarily training a specific muscle group or getting an intense sweat sesh in, the warm, fuzzy feeling we get when we give time to a cause in need is super rewarding. And most importantly, we are directly impacting those in need of help or assistance. Animal rescue shelters, food pantries, retirement homes, political campaigns, are just a few ways to give our time wisely. Living in Germany and feeling unsure of how to get started? Check out this volunteer guide put together by Deutschland.de. We promise you will not regret it. And remember what goes around, comes around!

4. Pay for a stranger’s coffee

Before you scoff and scroll past this one, hang with me for a second. Initiating this act can sound intimidating and maybe even creepy? But there is a way to take out the intimidating factor — hey, a Starbucks in US had a 400 person chain of good souls buying coffee for the person behind them, so if 400 folks can do it, we can, too. Anywho, doesn’t that make you want to shed a tear or two? Whether you are emotionally affected by the Starbucks story or not, paying for a stranger’s coffee can actually brighten your day. Instead of awkwardly approaching a random stranger at your local coffee shop, just tell the cashier ringing you up to charge you for two coffees, but only to give you one. Then, when the next person in line orders a coffee, they won’t have to pay! Voila — magic!

5. Eat less meat

First things first, we are not asking you to change your whole lifestyle and go completely vegan. While that would have tremendous effects on our planet, (meat production and consumption contribute to twice the amount of CO2 emissions as cars — how wild is that?), completely breaking a lifelong habit can be extremely difficult. Fortunately, there are companies such as Impossible Foods Inc. and Beyond Meat that have found a way to create mock meat that looks and tastes like real meat! They even use beetroot juice to give their burgers that ‘bloody’ consistency. We found starting off with even one day a week — #meatlessMondays — is a good and sustainable way to reduce our meat consumption, and now Veganuary has become a movement that began in the UK. It entails going vegan for the whole month of January. We’re really making strides here people, let’s go!!

Try incorporating these simple actions into your everyday routine and notice the changes for yourself!