Creative Ways to Support Others (and feel better yourself)

While it’s completely true that we have more ways than ever to communicate with others, it’s no secret that we aren’t actually as connected as we think we are and, in reality, we’re feeling more isolated than ever before (NPR.org).

So, what’s one to do when feeling down? You’ve undoubtedly seen countless posts and lists on things you can do for yourself in the name of #selfcare to boost your happiness, but I want to offer a different approach. Helping others.

Scientific research provides compelling data to support the anecdotal evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness. Through fMRI technology, we now know that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex.

Experiments show evidence that altruism is hardwired in the brain—and it’s pleasurable. Helping others may just be the secret to living a life that is not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful.

Time.com

Sounds great, right? Still, you may be stumped on what to actually do. Don’t worry, I got you! Here is a list of creative ways to connect with and help others

Donate

Money

Find a handful of causes you believe in (I suggest looking for at least one at the national level and another at the local level) and either give at specific times a year, like when they do big fundraising pushes, or go ahead and set up a recurring monthly donation. This is a one-time thing to do and will support them evenly throughout the year.

Goods

This is my favorite way to support local charities. There are national organizations like Goodwill and Salvation Army where you can donate goods anytime, but I do recommend looking up local charities to see if they accept items. Some will look for specific things, like animal shelters that need paper towels, toys, food, etc., and others will run their own thrift shop where you can donate anything and it helps them generate money and jobs.

Check websites or contact them because places that accept large items like furniture will often come to pick it up from you. I’ve done this a number of times with Black Mountain Home near Asheville.

Volunteer

Email/Call/Data entry

Volunteering, like donating, offers a wide variety of options so I want to point out that they do not all have to be in-person. Especially with Covid, I understand not being comfortable giving hands-on help if it’s even offered, and if you have young kids that’s a whole other puzzle to figure out.

Again, start by looking at your favorite organizations (or narrow it down to a category to search for like “Animal shelters” or, “Environmental organizations”), navigating to their “Donate”, or “Give back” section and browse the options. You may find you can make calls, send emails, or help with simple data entry.

In-person

Obviously, a big way to help can be in-person, although many places are getting creative with these options as well. I recently volunteered with Babies Need Bottoms by picking up 2 large boxes of diapers that needed to be repackaged and labeled before distributing. I brought them home, did the task, and brought them back for another volunteer to drive to their destination.

You can search for individual opportunities or see if there is an option to be a regular volunteer. My grandma was a weekly volunteer for Meals on Wheels for decades. This was part of her routine, and while you certainly do not have to commit to weekly, volunteering for the same thing repeatedly will build relationships and increase your satisfaction and connectedness with other volunteers and the organization itself.

One last way, if they offer this, is to host an event or do a drive. When living in Chicago I organized an event with another organization I volunteered for, to make blankets for animals at a local dog shelter. You could host a fundraiser to raise money, or do a drive where you collect items that your organization of choice is in need of.

Check out Volunteermatch.org to find opportunities near you.

Send cards

Even if you don’t need help, per se, sending a card lifts the sender and the receiver’s spirits. Especially for friends going through a rough patch, or those who have something to celebrate, sending a card is 2936X more impactful than a text.

An amazing idea I would never have thought of if it weren’t for my friend who works in a nursing home, is sending bulk homemade cards around holidays to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. You can call or email local nursing homes near you to see if they accept this and where to send them. Then solo, with your kids, your friends, or propose it to your kid’s teacher, create dozens of cards to send that they can distribute to residents.

Be a good neighbor

This goes for anyone, but particularly if you have elderly neighbors. Make sure you have their phone number and they yours for easier communication. Take their cans in when you grab yours, shovel or rake – or help when they are doing it. Bring them a few treats when you bake, or cook extra when you make dinner to bring to them occasionally. When they’re out of town, bring their packages in and/or offer to pet sit. Text them periodically when going to the store to see if they need anything urgent. This is clearly not an exhaustive list, the point is to think of them and ways you can routinely support them.

Support small local businesses

We love to shop local but sometimes don’t actively do so until prompted by things like Small Business Saturday. Make it a point to regularly visit and shop in your fave small local shops, and seek out other small businesses, new or otherwise, to add to your rotation.

It’s not just about spending money there either. Shout them out on social when you do buy something (or are simply browsing), and tag them when friends are looking for recommendations. For food/drink shops, suggest meeting friends there instead of larger chains. Think of your friends and support them as well, do any of them sell products or offer services you could use? Choose their services whenever possible over corporations.

Be a connector

When you meet two people you think would hit it off (I’m really talking friendship or business here, but if you want to be a matchmaker that’s on you đź’•), connect them. If someone is in search of a type of service – let’s say massage – recommend your friend or acquaintance.

Put people in touch with people and services you know and trust. We all know how helpful it is when we’re searching for a product, service, or type of connection and someone directs you to exactly what you need.

There are so many ways to help and connect with others, and the more you do it the more you will think of!
What is your favorite way to support those around you? Tell us in the comments!

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