Want to add a little happiness to your life? Fill up your tank when you're feeling empty? Try doing something for someone else. From the simplest act of smiling at a stranger to a bigger commitment like fundraising, I've found the best way to feel better is to make someone else feel good.
Too busy, too tired, too far behind...
There are so many reasons not to give back. You may be thinking... how can I possibly squeeze some kind of volunteering into my already packed day? Or I'm on a tight budget and donations are out of the question. And the most limiting, I'm struggling in my own life -- how can I help someone else? Don't get stuck in the thinking trap of whether you have enough resources to give back. We all have something to offer and can give in ways that enrich rather than deplete us.
Give what you can
If you're already feeling like you don't have enough time or energy to give your family or yourself, let alone a stranger, then don't. Giving back doesn't have to mean signing up to volunteer -- look for another way. If you can give financially, then find a cause and make a monetary donation -- the amount doesn't matter. Or can you donate a little kindness? Sometimes giving back can be as simple and quick as giving a compliment or offering some encouragement.
Shift your focus
Moving our focus off of ourselves and onto others is a free service we can offer our community. Even just deciding to have compassion for someone else is a way to give back. Want to make hand gestures at the jerk who cut you off on the way to work? Choose to take a deep breath and wish him a safe trip instead. Decide to cut your annoying neighbor some slack today. Park further away at the pharmacy or doctor's office so someone who needs it can get the good parking spot.
Share what you've got
Have an eye for color? Offer to paint the walls at a local shelter. Are you in marketing? Contact a local charity and offer to design flyers or help drum up media coverage for their next event. If you're handy, see if an elderly neighbor has a maintenance project or gardening to do. Offer to watch a friend's children for an hour so she can take a walk or do an errand. Can you call on your class or group to support a cause? Our Jazzercise instructors and customers have banded together to do local events and benefits that have raised more than $28 million for a wide range of causes.
If what you lack is time how about doing something once or twice a year and really making it count? How about your birthday? Friends and family will ask what you want to do. Instead of going to a restaurant for a meal try taking your family to a shelter to serve dinner. Or rather than hosting a party at home, get your group to volunteer together. Sites like VolunteerMatch.org make it easy to find ways to help.
Do your kids need a little perspective? Doing acts of service as a family can help them feel more connected to you, each other and others in their community. Make homemade get well cards and take them to your local hospital. Do an impromptu beach, trail or park cleanup. Take a bag of food to an animal shelter. Talk about who you're helping, how you hope it will make them feel and how it makes you feel.
Clutter for a cause
Ditch the clutter for the good of others! Shoes, books, clothes, blankets -- gather them up and donate them. It's a win-win. You'll have a clean closet and another person will have a warm blanket on a cold night. Donate books to the library and magazines to a hospital waiting room. You can also take scratch paper, tape, pencils, markers, etc. to your local school.
Find an organization that fits
Here's a small sampling of the many, many organizations dedicated to helping others.
Enchanted Makeovers is a nonprofit that transforms homeless shelters for women and children into places that inspire behavioral and psychological change. According to their website, you can help support the children by providing hand-made pillowcases, dolls, super-hero capes, books and other materials to redecorate shelter bedrooms.
All for Good is an online hub for volunteerism and community service that lets you to see where change is needed and makes it easy to engage. With a huge online database of volunteer opportunities, you can look for ones in your area and register your skills to be called on when requests for volunteers go out.
Girls on the Run is a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running. It offers a transformational physical activity-based positive youth development program for girls in 3rd-8th grade. They offer a range of ways to support, whether you have just a couple of hours a year, a season or a month to volunteer.
Return on investment
No matter how big or small the act of service, what you're giving is hope. Proof positive that kindness exists. You may even be restoring a person's faith in others or helping them get back their sense of self worth. And doesn't that make you happy? It's a win for all of us.
How do you give back? Have you found ways to work it into your busy life? Please share and comment!
Judi Sheppard Missett, who turned her love of jazz dance into a worldwide dance exercise phenomenon, founded the Jazzercise dance fitness program in 1969. The workout program, which offers a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, and cardio box movements, has positively affected millions of people worldwide. The international franchise business hosts a network of 7,800 instructors teaching more than 32,000 classes weekly in 32 countries. For more information, visit jazzercise.com.