5 Easy Ways to Make a Difference in Less Than 5 Minutes

Photo by Namita Azad
Photo by Namita Azad
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The Challenge: We want to make a difference but we just don’t have time!
The Science: Making a difference is not just good for others, it’s incredibly good for us too!
The Solution: Here are 5 easy ways to make a difference from your desk in under 5 minutes!

We know that making a difference and helping others makes us feel good and is good for the world. Compassion, in addition to making an incredible difference to those around you, is also one of the greatest secrets to health and happiness (as I described in this post). But sometimes it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to engage in any kind of altruism. There is so much to do, can I possibly find time to contribute? Well actually, yes! Thanks to the internet, in minutes, at no or low cost, and from your desk, you can contribute, even daily! Here are some ideas!

1. Lend a few dollars, change someone’s life.

Lend money on a micro-finance portal, support people from around the world in achieving their dreams in as little as $5 or $10 loans. Watch as that person grows their business and transform their lives. Check out websites like kiva.org for micro loans that you will see change others lives or Heifer International to gift a farm animal that will help a family self-sustain in a developing country.

2. Free clicks to help.

The GreaterGood website is set up to help people make a difference in a few seconds. Through just one click and with no cost on your part, you can help feed animals, fight breast cancer, autism, and hunger, support veterans, help rain forests and even more. Bookmark these sites and spend a few seconds clicking to start your day on the right foot. You can also purchase inexpensive items from the website’s stores to contribute funds to the cause of your choosing.

3. Express your gratitude.

Did you know that gratitude will not only benefit others but it will also benefit you? Gratitude has been linked to higher well-being and lower depression. There are family members, colleagues or even just acquaintances that we see daily and appreciate yet we forget to tell them. Thank people for what they do, not just as lip service, but sincerely. If you are too shy to do so, send a thank you email or letter, a small gift or even flowers. Such small gestures can go a really long way.

4. Smile.

Research shows that when you smile (whether it’s a real or fake) you feel better, reduce your own stress, but also uplift others! How? Research shows that your smile activates the smile muscles in others. Ever had that awkward moment where you walk down the hall, smile at someone, and they don’t smile back? Sure, you might feel embarrassed, but don’t! Internally, you have made them smile and chances are, they may smile at the next person they meet down that hall.

5. Uplift others.

Look around and make someone’s day. It really doesn’t take much. Post an uplifting quote or story on Facebook, buy someone a cup of coffee, ask someone how they are and listen to them with full attention, or pay for the person behind you at a Starbucks drive-thru. Not only will you make their day and feel good yourself, but research shows that anyone who witnesses your act of kindness will feels inspired and elevated and, by feeling so, will be more likely to then help others.   Warning: you may be creating a vicious circle of kindness and compassion and triggering a trend!

I recently gave a TEDx talk on why compassion is one of the greatest ways secrets to happiness, you can watch it here.

Do you have other great tips on how to do good fast and from your desk for busy people? Leave me a comment and I’ll add it in!


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Emma Seppälä

Emma Seppälä

EMMA SEPPÄLÄ, Ph.D. is the author of The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success and Science Director of Stanford University's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. She also teaches at Yale University and consults with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. She founded Fulfillment Daily and a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review and Psychology Today.
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  • Paul says:

    Its a great post, I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing.
    It so much connects to what I am doing, with my blog Imagination Breathing. Where in I give opportunity to people to inspire lives by their articles and photos. Young and old all are part of it.
    The vision is to “inspire lives”.
    What IB believes is that “Your insight may be just what someone else needs to have a breakthrough”.

    . Your article has realy made my day. Thank you,thank you,thank you.

    Paul Fernandes.

    • Emma Seppälä, Ph.D Emma Seppälä, Ph.D says:

      So glad you enjoyed the article, Paul! Love that this connects to your blog – what a wonderful concept. Thank you for your kind words :)

  • Dean Huyck says:

    As always Emma, I am so grateful for the concise, practical and scientific approach to all of the material you share. The recent boom in positive psychology and your work in particular has really added credence to the different way of being I have been promoting in professional development workshops for years. I’m sure that my audiences and Twitter followers must believe me cahoots with you on some level…no, I just appreciate useful and cutting edge knowledge. Anyway, here’s a little something I do to try and make a difference:. Take 5 minutes to ask a colleague to share what is exciting them in their work right now and truly listen to them. They feel heard, it focuses on the positive, you get to practice authentic listening and you may learn something new and exciting. Everybody wins! Thanks again for all you do and I will continue to try and be a worthy standard bearer.

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