In the age of technological progress happening at the speed of Google Fiber, the world is more connected than ever, but we can feel completely disconnected from our closest neighbors, friends, and the people we walk by every day. Here are some practical and small ways that you can spread love in your city, not just over the holidays, but throughout the new year and beyond. We are all humans, we are all people, and we all deserve some love, comfort, and happiness in our lives. You don’t have to donate billions to charity to make a difference in someone’s life! Everyone can make a difference and contribute to another person’s happiness.

1. Fully Listening to People

There is a difference between hearing someone and really listening. Really listening to someone can be very powerful, and can show someone how much you care about them and their feelings. We all want to be heard and understood. How can you listen better?

According to Harriet Cabelly, a social worker and positive psychology coach, you first need to understand the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is simple, listening involves the whole self – attentiveness, interest, and concern showing through. Stay present during the full conversation, ask questions, acknowledge the person’s feeling, it’s all part of truly listening to someone. Go forth and really listen to people, you may just find that you don’t know some people as well as you thought.

2. Smile

Smiles and laughs can be contagious. Spread positivity by radiating it! Smile at those harried people in line at Starbucks, as you’re walking down the street, and at your coworkers. A smile and kind hello can mean a lot to people, and can make someone feel good. When someone smiles at you, you feel as though you’ve been noticed, and a simple smile and “hi!” can make someone’s day a little brighter. This free and easy way to spread love will make you also feel better!

Charles Darwin first posed the idea that emotional responses influence our feelings in 1872.

“The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it,” he wrote.

The idea that when we frown, we feel pain more intensely and when we smile, our brains believe us to be happier has been explored by psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales, who performed a study based on whether botox, since it inhibits facial expressions, also inhibits our feelings.

So, smile!

3. Help Strangers

In a world full of 7 billion people, it is easy to get caught up in our own world. I life in New York City, and basically the entire city, teaming with millions, are strangers. But every day, I am awarded a beautiful sense of community when I give a homeless person a sandwich, or see someone helping an infirm person across the street, or giving the embarrassed person in front of you that extra quarter they’re missing. Little things like this give us a sense of connectedness, and helping strangers in small ways is a fantastic way to help people and spread love across the world. Help people without thought of compensation or reward, do it because you can and should.

4. Pay It Forward

Paying It Forward can happen in many different ways, but a way that it’s happening these days that makes the news is at Starbucks! Paying it forward refers to someone purchasing the coffee or order of the person behind them in line. At one Florida store, the pay it forward chain lasted 11 hours! It started at 7 am at the St Petersburg location and lasted an amazing 378 people! What could be the record for the longest pay it forward chain at a Starbucks in Newington, CT, where starting at 8 am on Christmas Eve in 2013, and lasted over 1000 customers. These small acts of kindness are said to inspire and influence people to continue performing acts of kindness, not just to the customers behind them in line, but to others in their lives.

Make sure to pay things forward in life, in general. When I was young, just starting in my career, I was given amazing training and mentorship by another employee, and have tried to pay it forward to new people throughout my career, hoping to assist people and help them gain not only understanding of their current job, but also of what it means to be part of a team and mentor others.

5. Offer Acknowledgement and Recognition

We have all felt what it’s like to do something and not get recognized. While you should not be doing good or kind things for acknowledgement or recognition, it is always appreciated when someone does recognize it. Mostly I refer to work situations. Recognize and give credit to your colleagues and employees. The people who work hard, achieve things in the workplace, and try to be great employees. Just like with children, most people want to be genuinely recognized and acknowledged for doing well at work and in life. When you tell someone “good job!” you’re showing them that you noticed and appreciated them and their hard work. As simplistic as it seems, many people every year leave good jobs simply because they feel unappreciated.

In 2013, Forbes published an article stating that 2 million Americans quit their jobs voluntarily every month, and that according to a study done by Accenture, 43% of people quitting their jobs cite “lack of recognition” as the reason. This is a huge percentage and something that is so easily remedied. Appreciate your people! Just because you pay someone to do a job doesn’t mean that person doesn’t deserve recognition when they do it well. In a world where great employee retention is a huge part of success, you should not be losing anyone to them feeling unappreciated for their work.

6. Be Grateful

It’s not just for Thanksgiving! Spread love and positivity by expressing your gratitude in life. I like to tell my partner “We are so lucky. We’ve worked hard and we have a wonderful life. Look at all the things we have to be grateful for: each other, our families, our jobs, our friends.” Sometimes we all need a reminder that the little things and disappointments in life are not what’s important, and that we have a lot to be thankful for. Tell your friends you appreciate them, thank your boss for being a great role model and helping you, tell your parents you love them. Spread the love!

7. Use Good Manners

This one may seem silly at first, but how many times has someone bumped into you and you apologized? Or you saw someone wave or say hello at work and you were too busy or distracted to respond? Good manners are noticed and easy to do. Look people in the eye when you talk to them, call people by their names, and if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. The golden rule of life is to treat people as you wish to be treated. So wave to your neighbor, say hello, excuse me, please, and thank you. It seems simple and it is, but good manners make a difference to people and a difference in how people treat each other. Manners are an indication of kindness and respect for others, and this is a great way to spread the love.

8. Small Acts of Random Kindness

Put change in a meter that’s about to run out. Hold the door open for the person behind you. Hold the elevator. For goodness sake, use your turn signal! Donate your loose change to a local charity. Random acts of kindness can turn someone’s day around, and will cost you little to no time or money. Why wouldn’t you want to do small things that can help people? If you think of most people as inherently good, you should also want to do good things for people in the world.

9. Do Pro Bono Work For a Great Cause

You can use your professional skills and do short term or long term work for your favorite local or global charity through CatchAFire.org, which connects people with the right skills to the nonprofit organizations that could use your help. Right now there are projects waiting for volunteers from everything from needing Marketing Strategies to Storytelling help, to Grantwriting to Website Construction. If you have great skills, some time, and a love of volunteering, these projects could be a great way to volunteer in a new and interesting way!

10. Donate Anything!

Donations are not all about money. You can donate anything these days, from clothes and shoes and purses to books and tools. Instead of throwing away anything, try to donate it to someone who could use it first. Homeless shelters often desperately need socks and hygiene items, women’s shelters always need things for the kids and teens like books and toys, animal shelters need pet toys, bed, and leashes, and Goodwill and Salvation Army will take almost anything. There are even services who will take your old kitchen appliances like refrigerators and microwaves! Why throw away something that works or still has life in it, when it can go to people who need it?

11. Visit An Animal Shelter

Spend time with man’s best friend and man’s animal that tolerates them by going to a shelter and walking some dogs or cuddling with the homeless cats! Animal shelters have more animals than humans, and often need people to help play with and take care of the animals. This would be a great date, or a fun day with your best friend. And you never know, maybe you’ll even find your next furry companion!

12. Love Yourself and Be Happy

This may sound trite, but the best way to spread happiness and love is by radiating it. Show the world love by loving yourself first. Spread positivity by first being positive. You being happy and appreciative and grateful makes it easy to spread that happiness and gratefulness to others. Be the best version of yourself by being thankful for what you have, by having a good work ethic and a strong will. Learn new skills and maybe you’ll want to teach others. You as a person are the best advertisement for happiness when you’re passing it out to other people.

Featured photo credit: Virginia Is For Lovers by Jon Cornwell via flickr.com

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