“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
Make a Difference Day is a national day of community service held annually on the fourth Saturday of October, and is one of the largest single-days of service nationwide[i]. Now in its 25th year, volunteers gather with a common mission – “to improve the lives of others” and make a positive impact on the community. And not only is it good for the community – turns out giving is also good for the giver. According to Jenny Santi in her book The Giving Way to Happiness,
“It turns out that when we help someone, our body triggers the release of healthy chemicals. Helping can reduce your stress levels. Your heart may beat with a healthier rhythm. You may also get a boost to your immune system. In fact, some studies suggest that helping people on a regular basis may help us live longer.”
There are many simple and easy ways to give back to the community, not just this Saturday, but year round. Here are a few suggestions of ways you can make a difference:
1. Donate: we often accumulate more than we really need or hold on to things that aren’t of use to us anymore but could be to someone else. Here are a few ideas of things to give:
- your used books (in good condition) to your local library
- gently used towels to the local animal shelter
- new school supplies like paper and markers to the public schools
- gently used business clothes to your local Dress for Success chapter or children’s clothes to a family shelter
- sign up as an organ donor!
2. Perform an everyday act of kindness: “Your good deeds provide you with that rush of happiness when you give, and it doesn’t take much time or effort to complete one,” says Jennifer Iacovelli, author of Simple Giving.
- hold the door open for a stranger
- pick up trash in your neighborhood
- help an older person load groceries
- buy a coffee for the person behind you in line
3. Volunteer your time: making a difference is by no means limited to giving money. We don’t all have the same amount of money, but we all do have time on our hands, and can give some of it to help others.
- offer to help babysit so your friends can have a break and enjoy a night off, or if you’re sitting next to a new mother on a plane, offer to hold her baby as she gets settled
- participate in a beach cleanup or at a homeless shelter or food drive
- coach a kids sports team
4. Send a note: take a quick moment to say hello to someone special and let them know you’re thinking of them. Dharma Comic’s illustrator Leah Pearlman has created this lovely notecard you can print out and send!
From Leah Pearlman’s DRAWN TOGETHER, print this out to use as a postcard!
5. VOTE: sometimes we might feel like “what is my one vote going to do?” but this is one very key way to make a difference! In the same vein, call or write your legislators about an issue important to you.
Now go out there and make a difference!