As one person in a sea of billions, we as individuals can start to feel small and inconsequential. When decisions are made by the government and other higher ups that are out of touch, we can feel helpless. Many people live with regret, but the most painful regrets are often for those things not done in life. If you want to make a difference in the world, just remember that it doesn’t need to be a grand gesture worthy of a Nobel Peace prize. You don’t have to save lives or develop a new transformational technology or end hunger. All of the small actions add up.
Make A Difference Your Way
There may be times where the feeling of not contributing in a broader sense or of not having meaning in your life can be incredibly detrimental to our mental health. When my physical health went properly down the metaphorical toilet in 2015 after my first surgery, I lost my job and friends and everything else I had in my life, along with my future. It left me feeling useless, hollow and worthless, and I know I won’t be alone with that.
The thing is, I imagine many people will find that they do make a difference every day without even realising it. This post is, hopefully, to make you think about how you may already be doing something wonderful. It’s also to give those who want to do more an idea of the options available for short and long term effects. Helping the world in some way can help us at the same time.
But you needn’t make grand gestures or change the world in order to make a difference within it. Just touching one life by bringing a smile to someone’s face is making a difference. Doing what you can to raise awareness, affect social change, to be a good listener, to help the planet… There are so many ways to leave a beautiful mark on the world.
If you want to leave a beautiful mark on the world, here are some suggestions.
1. Small Acts Of Kindness
Spreading a smile and sharing the joy can brighten someone else’s day, and such acts can have a lingering effect on both the giver and the receiver.
It can be a kindness to anyone and of any kind. It could be kindness to a friend, relative or partner, like offering them a helping hand or giving a thoughtful “saw this and thought of you” gift. It could be kindness to a stranger, lending a hand with heavy shopping bags, letting out a car at a busy junction, or simply saying hello to those you see on the street. It could be donating to charity, offering food to a rough sleeper, checking in on a vulnerable neighbour.
If you have the money to spare, you might consider things like leaving a surprise gift for someone who needs it, or offering to pay for someone’s coffee to brighten their day. But kindness can be totally free, so there are plenty of gestures that won’t cost a penny.
There are many small acts of kindness that can all put a smile on someone’s face.
2. Petition & Protest For Your Passions (Peacefully!)
Protesting doesn’t have to be about holding placards in a group of thousands marching through Times Square. And protesting certainly doesn’t have to lead to criminal damage, road closures and the frustration of those in the vicinity.
Peaceful protests in person can speak volumes but so can protesting at a distance. The online realm is a powerful platform from which to raise awareness and fight for a cause. If you’re passionate about protecting the planet, you can promote recycling on social media. If you’re fired up about a poignant healthcare issue, you can shout from the rooftops on Twitter, connect with other patients, message the healthcare providers and spark a conversation.
There are various issues being protested currently, but it doesn’t have to be a worldwide or national government issue you wish to fight for or againt. There could be local initiatives on issues that affect your community, like protesting against the closure of a local hospital or cutbacks to social services.
Don’t underestimate the sway of online petitions, either. With enough signatures, petitions can be picked up by mainstream media or debated in parliament. With enough angry and passionate signees, a petition can spread quicker than ticks in a cattery. Each signature counts and the power of the people, made up of individuals like you and me, can raise awareness and instigate meaningful change.
3. Recycle & Respect Nature
Doing your bit to protect, preserve and nurture the planet is a humbling experience. Small lifestyle adjustments develop into habits over time, and you’ll be putting your beliefs into action and actually doing something useful for the cause. Recycle what you can, turn off lights and electricals that aren’t in use, wash fabrics at lower temperatures, reuse and upcycle, walk instead of drive for some journeys, invest in energy efficient appliances and lightbulbs, go with a green energy provider, buy second hand.
Some changes come at a greater cost and such things aren’t going to be options for everyone. If you’ve got the money, you could make bigger pledges like with solar panels or an electric car. If not, the small things add up and we can only do what we reasonably can manage and afford.
Small efforts here and there will make your lifestyle a little greener, which is great for the planet and it’ll make you feel good inside, too.
4. Work Or Volunteer For Meaningful Initiatives
Some people have the ability to work somewhere they love while also paying the bills. For others, work is just work to earn money without being overly meaningful or fulfilling.
If you’re in the position to do so, you could consider your next job move so that it aligns with your morals and makes a difference in a way that’s meaningful to you. If it’s not possible or you don’t work, volunteering in a great option to allow you to spend more time on things that you feel good about. There are various online and offline roles, full and part time with flexibility, to consider. Whether you have children, other commitments or chronic illness, there could just be something in a voluntary capacity to suit your abilities and lifestyle.
You don’t have to apply as the next Superman or his secretary to help save the world, you just want something that helps you to give back or to do something that’s meaningful to you. It could be volunteering in a charity shop, food shelter, nursery, litter picking or as an advocate in support services. Career paths may take you to working for a charity, a company that manufactures goods that genuinely help people, as a solicitor fighting for the little guys, in the health service, the police or fire department, or as a teacher.
There are plenty of jobs and volunteer roles that make a positive difference, whether you’re on the front line, working behind the scenes, or in an admin capacity. Every person’s contribution is valuable.
5. Give To Charity
If you can afford to donate, whether it’s pennies in a collection tub or bigger bucks via direct deposit, charities will be grateful. Make sure you do your research and choose a charity that’s aligned to your beliefs and values, and ensure it directs the majority of the cash to where it’s needed, ie. not to the SEO’s wallet! You can get further information on charities & check how charities use their money online.
Donating clothes, furniture, books and bric-a-brac to charity shops is doing a two-in-one good deed by raising money for good causes and recycling. If you’re looking for new clothes, furniture or homewares, take a mooch in a thrift store to get some purse-friendly unique finds that’ll keep the cycle of goodness going.
There may also be local centres, shelters, healthcare providers and homes that welcome donations, like residential homes, care homes for the elderly, rehabilitation units and so on.
Think of the current events in the world. From poverty and health crises, to war. What could you do to help? Products, money or time all count, because you can only give what you’re able to. There should be no judgement for not being able to do such things as there are other ways you can make a difference, as this post hopefully shows.
6. Raise Money
Take an active role by raising money for a cause or initiative that’s important to you. You could choose a big charity drive, like Red Nose Day or the Race For Life, where you’ll have a bit more support along the way. Or you could pick the charity of your choosing and decide to raise money without a pre-set event, which you could do online or offline.
There are plenty of causes and places that need financial donations for whatever reason, not just mainstream national or international charities. GoFundMe often features individuals in need. There could be community issues that need support, or a local hospital in need of money for a new MRI scanner. Smaller, local issues can be hugely helped with your support, and you’ll likely see the result of your hard work in a tangible way that you may not with a larger charity.
Take a look online for ideas on all sorts of activities you could do, whatever your budget and abilities. While you’re raising cash, you can simultaneously raise awareness for the cause. Fund-raising websites and social media make spreading the world and taking donations much more convenient.
Active listening without judgement is a skill that not everyone possesses. To truly listen to someone else and care about what they’re going through is a valuable thing you can do for another person. When someone talks about their chronic illness, their home life, their concerns and worries, relationship problems or anything else, they’re showing faith in you. Listen, show that you care, acknowledge and appreciate that other person. It could make all the difference in ways you may never know.
You can be there for those people close to you in your life, like friends and family. Listening makes a difference in day to day discussions, too, not just the deep and meaningful conversations or at times of crisis.
You might want to lend an ear to work colleagues or acquaintances. If you have the time to donate your skill and compassion on a wider scale, charities like Samaritans are always looking for more volunteers.
Mental health should not be underestimated, nor should showing a little kindness and compassion to others when they’re in need. It may not seem like much, but being there just to listen could change or even save a life when someone is struggling.
8. Let Go Of Bitterness
The general negativity in the world and the negative experiences we may have in life have a way of discolouring our perspective. We start to see things with an edge of cynicism, resentment and bitterness. If you’re encased in bitterness, your goodness will struggle to shine through and the good in the world might likewise struggle to make its way through to you. That may sound like a slice of cheddar, but this cheesiness is often true.
It’s easier said than done, but working on letting go of some of the hurt, taking time out when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and filling your life with a little more light can help keep you open to hope and to the beauty in the world. You’ll find you’re more able to give to others around you, and to do so without expectation or burnout.
How do you want to be making a difference to the world?