You may feel grateful for the fulfilling life you have - great partner, healthy kids, good-paying job and caring friends. However, you may also feel guilty, especially in these turbulent times, for what you have and what others don't.
But there's no need to feel like you can't make a difference. Individual action can be pretty meaningful in the universal scheme of things, and the way in which we lead our personal lives does positively influence the bigger picture.
The fact is that you can feel powerful in little giving ways, and it doesn't require performing heroic or extraordinary feats.
How to make an impact
So instead of trying to move the earth or change the world, why not focus on how you can act on a personal level? For example, do something good within your own community, workplace or neighbourhood, or even just within your household.
There are many ways to contribute to the greater good through small acts of generosity, says M. J. Ryan, author of bestselling book Attitudes of Gratitude (Conari Press, 1999).
"We can be generous when we give our knowledge, our awareness, our empathy or our silence," she says.
"Generosity is also about letting go of grudges, hurts and concepts of ourselves and the world that stand in the way of our connection to others."
So if that nagging voice in your head keeps saying, "I wish there were something I could do," here are some ways to give and feel good about it.
1. Make your home a model
Your household is a reflection of how you choose to live your life, and your own small-scale vision of a "perfect world."
Maybe that means making your home feel welcoming and safe, showing consideration for those who live there or visit, or caring for the environment (e.g., using green cleaning products or recycling).
Put in a flower garden to contribute the neighbourhood's peaceful image, or plant a vegetable garden and share your harvest with neighbours and friends. Let your personal values fill that space, and invite others to enjoy it - maybe your values will rub off on them.
Page 1 of 3 -- Discover how you can inspire others and help achieve your community's goals on page 2
2. Inspire a child
Whether it's your own kids, nephews and nieces or your friends' kids, help the children in your life want to make the world a better place.
Talking to them about what's happening in other areas of the world or in the environment, making them socially and politically aware, giving them a career or pep talk, or just being a good listener can affect their lives in significant, lasting ways. Remember that they are tomorrow's leaders.
3. Share your vision with others
Your friends are only too happy to help out if you ask them for something. And while an individual gesture may feel small, group action can enlarge the scope of your good deeds.
For example, when friends ask what to bring to my Christmas party, I request food donations to give to a local food bank. Everyone gets into the spirit of giving and, instead of individual contributions, we are giving much more as a group.
4. Help a friend in need
We seldom think of friends as being "needy." But while they may not be lacking in food, shelter or clothing, they may be starved for time or peace of mind. Offer to babysit, give them a ride somewhere, or pitch in when they're hosting an important dinner. Stress taxes health, relationships and work performance. So anything we can do to lessen personal stress makes society a better place for us all.
5. Share your experience
People often underestimate the value of their life experience, but what we know - be it from overcoming personal trauma or finding success - may hold the solution to someone else's pain or dilemma.
If you're shy, reach out by starting a website, working at a hotline or mentoring someone. Or you can reach many people at once by offering to do public talks.
Page 2 of 3 -- Learn the importance of valuing friendships and blessings on page 3
Nurturing our friendships is a little like working toward world peace, since getting along with others marks a few strong links in the bond that joins all people. Focus on trying get along with your partner, family, neighbours and coworkers, and you'll be saving the world in your own right by balancing the animosity and disharmony that exist.
Ervin Staub, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts whose research focuses on peace and the prevention of violence, suggests that negativity in the world can be counteracted through kindness - so we should weigh how we can be a positive force in the world.
7. Give to yourself
When we think of giving or doing a good deed, we often skip over ourselves as the recipients of that kindness.
We beat ourselves up when we do something wrong, but we should strike a balance by rewarding ourselves for our positive achievements, whether it's finishing a night course, pulling off a brilliant presentation or sticking to a fitness program.
Charity really does start at home, so treat yourself to a good book, a day off or a relaxing bath, or celebrate your victory with friends - brunch, anyone?
8. Count your blessings
Finally, remember that you've worked hard to achieve inner peace and outer success, so be grateful for all that's positive in your life.
According to recent findings by Robert Emmons, a psychologist specializing in gratitude research at the University of California at Davis, there are psychological benefits to giving thanks, such as greater happiness, better health and improved sleep, as well as less anger, resentment, envy and depression.
Besides, gratitude is what inspires you to want to share your life with others - and to wish the same good luck upon everyone else.
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