Being benevolent should be for the betterment of others, of course—but it doesn’t hurt that it helps you too. In fact, being kind makes you less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, cancer, and heart disease, according to UCLA scientists.
So resolve to extend a hand wherever you see an opportunity. Help friends or neighbors hang lights, clean gutters, or shovel walkways. Give a busy mom the afternoon off while you babysit. Invite an elderly neighbor over for outdoor tea. Extend your altruism to strangers too: Buy coffee for the person behind you, let someone go ahead of you in line at the grocery store, spend time with the lonely pets at your local animal shelter. Commit random acts of kindness that may inspire others to pay it forward.
Give blood (or more).
People don’t realize how dire the need for blood is until they have a loved one on the gurney—someone in the U.S. needs blood every two seconds, and there’s not nearly enough of it to go around. The good news is that it’s easy to donate blood or platelets. Help bridge the gap by finding a blood drive near you and parting with one of your 10 pints. Your body will replenish that amount of blood in less than six weeks, and your donation can save three lives, especially if you’re type O. To take it a step further, you can also organize a blood drive, register as an organ donor, or get tested to find out if you’re someone’s bone marrow match.
Living in gratitude is a fairly certain path toward happiness, or at least contentment. And telling others that you’re grateful for what they do motivates them to keep doing it. So express gratitude whenever it’s appropriate—to the restaurant server who brings your food, to the janitor who keeps your child’s school clean, to the nurse who cares for your relative. And, of course, to the people whom we rely on for our safety and security. You can always say “Thank you for your service,” but if you feel inspired to do more for your city’s first responders, there are many ways to brighten their day. Hand-write and deliver thank you cards to your nearest fire station. Bring a home-cooked meal or a box of baked goods to the police department. If you see someone in uniform dining at a restaurant, you can anonymously pick up their tab. Or get the whole family involved to send care packages to deployed soldiers.
In the end, it matters less how you choose to give back to your community—the important thing is just that you do, in a way that feels right to you. Saint Francis of Assisi said it best: “For it is in giving that we receive.”