Friday 17 June 2016

50 Small Ideas for Cultivating Kindness, Happiness and Positivity

With the sort of news we've had this week it can be all too easy to think "everything is terrible!", to become overwhelmed with sadness or feel lost at your inability to fix these huge problems.

But there are lots of small, everyday things you can do to be kind to yourself and to others and quietly cultivate goodness and happiness. We can't all go out and save the world, but we can make it a nicer place to live in dozens of tiny ways. Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments!

1. Go outside - gaze at the vastness of the stars, or walk through the grass and appreciate the simple goodness of daisies and ladybirds and leaves and other tiny wonders.

2. Donate something. You don't have to have a huge clear-out and take big bags to the charity shop, you can give away a single CD you never listen to or a dress that's no longer your style. You can even donate your tatty old clothes to H&M for recycling (and for each bag you donate, they give you a £5 voucher).

3. Gift or lend something to a friend - a DVD box set you've finished that you know they'd love, a book you've read that you think would be just their cup of tea. (Bonus: if they do love it, you can get together for a cuppa and chat about how great it was!).

4. Wait and hold a door open for someone.

5. Buy something extra at the supermarket and add it to the box for the local food bank or animal shelter (or whatever other organisation is collecting donated items in store). "3 for the price of 2" offers are especially great for this when they're on non-perishable items - buy two for yourself and give away the third.

6. Do some colouring in. There are so many great colouring books available nowadays, you're sure to find something that appeals to you and there's something incredibly relaxing about getting absorbed in a nice bit of colouring in! You'll also find loads of fabulous free printable colouring pages online, shared by bloggers or posted as freebies to promote new colouring books.

7. Hug your loved ones. I often tell my mum "Oh no! I've just realised! You haven't had a hug for days! It's a hug emergency!" and give her a comically exaggerated bear hug.

8. Cuddle your pets (well... as much as your pets like to be cuddled!).

9. Watch animal videos on YouTube. I highly recommend videos of dogs having pool parties.

10. Read some of those cheesy lists on sites like Buzzfeed called things like "These 24 Stories Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity!" that make you (well, me, anyway) happy cry at how wonderful people can be.

11. Plant something and watch it grow.

12. Support a local or independent business. The Just a Card campaign points out how even small purchases really matter to indie businesses and how you don't need a huge budget to be able to support them. Buy just a card from that lovely gallery or craft fair, one small treat from the farmers market, one item off your grocery list from a local shop instead of the supermarket, etc. You can also support the makers and writers and artists whose work you love by recommending them to friends or re-tweeting (or otherwise sharing) their posts about new products or special sale offers.

13. Give up your seat on the Tube (or the rush hour train home) for someone who needs it.

14. Re-read a beloved book or your favourite poetry. You could also watch your favourite film or a lovely cosy TV show (my top tip: Due South, funny and sweet and filled with kindness and friendship). When you've worked your way through your faves, ask your friends what their favourites are.

15. Volunteer your time. Regular voluntary work is amazing, but if you can't manage that there are always one-off events like fairs and other fundraisers that people are looking for extra help with. Keep an eye out in your local paper for charities and other groups looking for volunteers, or check the websites of organisations like Oxfam for upcoming events.

16. Be understanding, forgiving and kind when dealing with other people. "When we see someone else kick a vending machine for no visible reason, we assume they are "an angry person".  But when you yourself kick the vending machine, it's because the bus was late, the train was early, your report is overdue, and now the damned vending machine has eaten your lunch money for the second day in a row."

17. Bake a cake or some biscuits and surprise your friends, neighbours or coworkers. Write a list of the ingredients so people with allergies or other dietary restrictions will know if they can eat what you've made.

18. Put some music on and do some housework - cleaning up your living space can be a great mood-booster. I like challenging myself to see how much I can get done in a certain amount of time (half an hour, one side of a record, etc).

19. Tick a task off your To Do list that you've been putting off for ages. Finally getting it done will make you feel great!

20. Bite your tongue when you want to say something bitchy or snarky, in person or online. Let the moment pass.

21. Make a home for nature in your garden (or on your balcony) and help birds, bees, butterflies and more.

22. Put your small change in the charity box at the till when you shop, or save it up for the next time you visit your local free museum.

23. When you're travelling, offer to help someone up or down stairs with a pram or heavy suitcase.  

24. Tell someone you appreciate them, send a thank you card or just say "hey, I don't say this enough but you make me laugh! I'm so glad we're friends!"

25. Turn off your ad-blocker for your favourite websites. If you can afford to, subscribe to your favourite publications instead of just enjoying all their free content.

26. Sign a petition for a cause you care about, or write a letter to support a campaign - check the websites of groups like Amnesty International, Water Aid, Oxfam, etc for ways you can get involved in their campaigning.

27.Get some exercise! You can start small: get up out of your chair and stretch, go for a walk, take the stairs instead of the escalator, etc. 

28. Give directions. I am really bad at directions (I can never remember where anything is or what the names of roads are, even when I walk down them every other day) but I keep a small map of central London in my bag so I can help lost tourists who want directions to Harrods or to know which Tube to get to Buckingham Palace - they're always so happy you helped them.

29. Expand your horizons by learning about people, places and things outside of your experience. Go to the library and borrow a book on something interesting, or go to a museum and fill your brain with fascinating new facts and stories. My skill set is definitely located firmly in the arts, but I love visiting museums about science and technology or watching documentaries about things like space exploration. "My goodness, science is amazing! All these brilliant people discovering all these amazing things! So amazing!!", I find it overwhelmingly impressive in the best possible way.

30. Offer to help friends when you know they're ill or going through a busy or stressful time. Something simple like popping to the shops for someone is easy to do (especially if you're doing your own shopping at the same time) but can make a big difference to someone housebound or with a zillion things on their To Do list.

31. Turn off the news, log out of your social media - take a break from the constant flow of news (good and bad) and anything that makes you stressed, inspires FOMO or encourages feelings of inadequacy. Nothing bad is going to happen if you're out of the loop for a little while.

32. Don't compare your inside to someone else's outside, and remember that everyone - everyone - no matter how "perfect" their life appears to be on the outside has worries and stress and problems that you never get to hear about. Remembering this is a great way to be kind to yourself (and not set yourself impossibly high standards that "everyone else" seems to be meeting) but also to be kind to other people (because you never know what someone else is going through behind the scenes).

33. Choose a goal you want to work towards, and dedicate 15-30 minutes a day to making it happen. Daily challenges are great for this - maybe try a daily drawing if you want to make more room in your schedule for art, or improving your sketches. Don't beat yourself up if you skip a day here and there - life gets in the way sometimes and that's okay! At the moment I'm trying to read for half an hour in bed each morning before I get up. I've been amazed by how many books I've been getting through and it's a lovely way to start my day.

34. Offer to babysit for friends with kids so they can have a night out, or just an afternoon off to catch up with those jobs they never have time for.

35. Feed the birds - set up a bird feeder in your garden, or go to your local river and feed the ducks something healthy. Watch the birds. Repeat.

36. Treat waiters and waitresses, shop assistants, and baristas how you'd want to be treated if you did those jobs. Be polite, smile, tip where appropriate! This sounds like the most obvious thing but it's amazing how many people treat people in service jobs like we treat Google, demanding what we want without a please or thank you.

37. Recycle! Check your local council's website to see what you can recycle and where.

38. Leave a comment on a blog post you've enjoyed or found useful (bloggers love comments!)

39. Make a positive playlist, play it loud and dance and sing along.

40. Look online for some free printable artwork to decorate your work or living space. Pinterest is a great place to search for pretty printables of all kinds - try searching for "free printable poster" or "free art printable" and you'll find hundreds of lovely designs to choose from.

41. Send someone a surprise postcard (proper post is always great, and surprise post is even better), or write an email to an old friend.

42. Have a long bubble bath, let your toes get really wrinkly as you unwind and soak away your stress.

43. Compliment someone's outfit, shoes, or amazing dyed hair. "Wow, I love your shoes!" "That is a fantastic coat!" is a great thing to hear from a passing stranger. Don't be creepy though, and avoid complimenting someone at the start of, say, a train journey where they'll be sitting next to you awkwardly for the next 30 minutes :)

44. Ring your elderly relatives, send them a letter or a card or some photos, or (even better) arrange to visit.

45. Have a cuppa with an elderly neighbour - tell them your news and let them tell you stories - or just stop to chat if you pass them in the street.

46. Buy someone flowers (or pick some from your garden) to cheer them up.

47. Take the time to sit and really look at something you love - a painting in a museum, a favourite view. Look at the details and think about what you love about it.

48. Get plenty of sleep. The world is always harder to handle when you're tired. I've been paying attention this year to all the things that get in the way of me getting enough sleep, and doing my best to make changes accordingly. No internet after a certain time in the evening (the temptation to sit up late clicking from link to link is just too strong), no telly after a certain time too - especially when watching a great box set ("just another episode!), and so on.

49. Help your older neighbours or relatives with physical chores like gardening that they might be struggling with.

And last but by no means least...

50. Make something, just for fun or as a gift for someone else. The process of making can be incredibly relaxing and meditative and there's nothing quite like the quiet satisfaction of creating something.

P.S. This isn't the usual stuff I tend to blog about, but I just needed to get this out of my brain and into a blog post. Many thanks to everyone who suggested things when I tweeted about this xxx


Amy at love made my home said...

A wonderful and optimistic post! WOnderful ideas for great things that are small, but make a massive difference.

Angela said...

Lovely list, Laura. There's plenty on here to keep anyone occupied with spreading kindness. Thank you for taking the time to let it out of your head :)

Gina said...

Thanks for this great post. Just what I needed to read. I particularly liked the Just a Card suggestion. Gina

Val said...

Great food for thought (and action) Laura - thank you. Very much needed at this time.

Unknown said...

Lupin- I so enjoyed your blog today. What a nice person you are. The world is in such a hurry these days and doesn't seem to remember to show much kindness. Thank you for reminding us that it doesn't take much time and energy to show someone we care. God bless. Gwen

Katrin said...

Thank you, Laura, really good list, it made my day! I'll print it out and keep it in my pocket. Greetings, Katrin

Momkatz said...

Hi Lauren,

What a lovely post and one that we all need to keep in our hearts. We Americans especially need a practical and heart-felt list of ideas that will help us make the world a better place. Lately, it seems our country from top to bottom cannot work together, nor treat each other with courtesy and respect.

I am going to share your post with all my friends.

Thank you, again, Lauren

merlecolibri said...

merci pour tous tes bons conseils !

Bugs and Fishes said...

Thanks so much for the kind comments, everyone! xxx

Scrapiana said...

'Leave a comment on a blog post' - Well then I will. Well done, Lauren! Small acts really do add up. Not only do these make a difference to other people, they also make each of us feel considerably more empowered - which important at times like these. Did you mention letting cars out in front of you when in stationary traffic? That makes you feel wonderfully magnanimous - when you're not really going anywhere anyway. :D

Bugs and Fishes said...

Cheers! :)

That is great tip, thanks! Laura x