We live in a beautiful world that is full of ugly things. It’s impossible to get through a day without hearing about conflicts or tragedies. Though it may not be pleasant, it’s crucial that we remain aware of the suffering that transpires around us and that we continue to educate ourselves.
It’s also very possible that due to these happenings, we may feel small and hopeless. Some of us may feel like it’s impossible to make a dent in ameliorating the struggles that surround us, that we can’t make sizable differences, that there are too many problems to address. Where do we start? This is a battle we will always face; there’s no reason to shy away from it. I am a firm believer that every little effort contributes to the cause even if the effects aren’t gigantic. Little efforts reverberate and make waves. Little efforts are better than no efforts. And little efforts, like most small things, can grow and manifest.
Though there are many problems to address, this particular issue is one that all of us face. It is one that permeates through our daily lives, our nine-to-fives, our schools and our attitudes about the world and ourselves in general. We have issues with general kindness and gratitude.
It’s not that we all lack common decency and graciousness — we just don’t put enough emphasis on it because we lose sight of how powerful it can be when properly utilized. Emphasizing general kindness and gratitude is an easy way to make your life and the lives of others around you exponentially better. It allows us to individually pave the way for positivity and empowerment — it’s how we’ll end up making the big waves.
Check out four ways that every person can make a big difference in the world without spending time, money or even effort.
1. Gratitude. Wake up and fall asleep happy.
This will help you to appreciate the beautiful things, remember the beautiful things and search for the beautiful things. Isn’t that beautiful? Basically, wake up in the morning happily and fall asleep at night thinking happy thoughts. Ask yourself what you’re grateful for in life, what you’re lucky to have and things you’re looking forward to in the future.
Remind yourself of the beautiful moments that made you smile, even if for the briefest instant, and write them down. Doing this will help you focus on the positive and will help you keep your head up during hard times. Exercise your ability to choose the brighter side and make it a habit.
2. Smile. Come on, it’s so easy.
This isn’t just for folks who are prone to wearing that angry, unhappy face at all times; this is for everyone. Smiling makes you and the people around you happier. Frowning does the opposite.
Smiling leads to laughter, which is good for exercise and mood elevation. Frowning leads to nothing, so smile more — especially to people you don’t know. It’s not creepy, it’s friendly. You never know what the people around you are feeling, so why not fill the space with warmth? You may just make someone’s day or change someone’s life.
3. Listen. Your ears only have one job. Let them do it.
It’s really easy to ignore people or become distracted when speaking with another person. You may not realize it, but not paying attention to someone while he or she is speaking can be incredibly hurtful. Remove yourself from your personal universe and realize that listening to another person is not a waste of your time. In fact, it can make that person feel great, as if what he or she is saying has value (which, surprise, it often does).
It will also leave you a little less in the dark about what the hell is going on. You never know what you’ll learn if you manage to stay present and focused on the person in front of you. This is a “treat others how you want to be treated” situation. Bonus points for establishing eye contact.
4. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
While this may be difficult to pull off, you can do it. It can be difficult to realize that other people’s negative actions directly impact our lives. Most of us operate from a “how does this affect me” perspective. Whether it’s someone holding up a line while he or she searches for coupons on a day when you’re running late, or an angry conversation on the phone with an “incompetent” customer service rep, we tend to be a little rough with the culprit in question.
Maybe your opinions only infiltrate the thoughts in your head, but sometimes, they may make it further — to your actions. Treat people as people; acknowledge that their negativity could stem from something in their personal lives and that it’s probably not personal.
Acknowledge that allowing negativity to fester does nothing for anyone except elevate negativity to an authoritative force. Give people the benefit of the doubt when you can; you’ll feel better and your blood pressure will thank you.