As the dark, somewhat dreary days of winter drag on, it’s easy to fall into a funk. Get up, slog through the daily grind, eat, sleep, repeat. Fortunately that funk is both easy to avoid and, should you have already fallen prey to it, easy to shake. How? The answer is simple: help someone else cross something off of their list, just because.
Evidence from scientists in fields as varied as neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, and behavioral economics is mounting: altruistic acts are not only a fundamental fabric of our human communities, but they are also a surefire route to happiness and health. For example, Emory University neuroscientists James Rilling and Gregory Berns found that the act of helping another person triggers the same parts of your brain as self-gratification; so, when you help someone else, you get the same “reward,” neurologically speaking, as if you had done something to fulfill your own desires. Researcher Stephen Post says helping a neighbor, volunteering, or donating goods and services results in a “helper’s high,” and you get more health benefits than you would from exercise or quitting smoking. And researchers at Happiness360.org have found that committing random acts of kindness is strongly correlated with higher levels of happiness.
Because time is one thing most people wished they had more of, one of the kindest acts you could do for another is to help cross something off of an already overstuffed to-do list. We’ve adapted these from our February #GetButtonedUp Challenge (if you haven’t joined in – it’s not too late – just click on the Challenge link, comment to join and start checking in on Facebook).
In addition to the aforementioned health and happiness benefits, we’ll bet you’ll gain another benefit too: motivation to tackle some of your own organizational to-do’s. We humans have a tendency to perceive them as much harder and more time-intensive than they actually are. By volunteering to tackle an organizational task for another you’ll be reminded of how much easier it was to deal with than you had made it out to be in your head.
1. Organize Someone Else’s Closet.
There are few organizational tasks as visually transformative as cleaning out a closet. In a relatively short period of time, you can take one from total disaster to pretty neat, and the benefits can be enjoyed every day for weeks on end. So, if you’re married, clean out your spouse’s closet. If you’re not, treat your best friend, a parent, or a sibling. Have fun with it; try to incorporate the element of surprise if you can. For quick tips on how to make a dent in short order, watch this video by our team on organizing your closet.
2. Reach Out and Babysit for a Stressed Mom Friend or Relative.
Motherhood is hard, hard work. Moms need, but don’t often get, enough time to decompress and relax – especially moms with young children. Schedule time to babysit for a mom you know that could use a little “me” time. While you’re babysitting, do a load of laundry for her and you’ll give (and get) an added dose of happiness.
3. Detoxify a Friend’s Car.
Most people we know have cars that could use a little TLC. When life is hectic, picking up that water bottle rolling around on the floor of the back seat often falls to the bottom of the priority list. Give a colleague or friend a certificate to a local car wash just because. Or surprise your spouse, sibling, or parent by giving their car a deep clean by yourself.
4. Run an Errand for Someone Harried.
Time: nobody has enough of it. Lend a hand in a way that gives somebody more of this precious commodity. Take an errand off of their hands: whether it’s something small, like picking up dry cleaning or making a phone call for them – or something bigger, like doing a grocery run, you will absolutely make their day…and yours too.
5. Help Someone Map Out a Plan to Achieve a Goal.
We all typically start off the year with good intentions, but by now at least two-thirds have ditched their resolutions. Be the planning guru for a friend or family member. Grab a few of these free printable goal sheets and help them break their big goal down into smaller steps, schedule them, and plan ahead for ways to get back on track if they get distracted or fall off course.