It could be as simple as helping a stranger with directions, opening the door for someone, writing a thoughtful letter to a friend, or helping carry someone’s stroller up the subway stairs. Those simple actions could make a bigger difference to the person you offered them to than you even realize.
Several years ago I began a habit in the hopes that my being in the world might have a more positive impact on those around me. I decided to try to smile, pretty much all of the time. Those who know me will tell you it’s a habit I still follow. Looking at all the tired miserable faces of NYC commuters in the mornings I decided I might be the only smile they see during the day, so why not start their day off right smiling at them, and why stop there? I can smile at work, lunch, while shopping… pretty much anywhere I can smile at someone.
There are studies showing that forcing yourself to smile (even if you are not feeling so fabulous) can actually trick your mind into thinking you are in a happy state, and slowly, as you continue to smile, you start to feel more and more happy as your brain and the rest of your body catch up with your smile. So it doesn’t only help others, smiling helps you feel better as well.
Why not pick some of your own actions for making a positive impact on the world each day?
As I write this article I’m on my way back to NYC from a soul-searching trip across India. As a single, female foreigner traveling alone, I can attest to just how much a positive action—a friendly smile, giving of directions, or a stranger agreeing to share an otherwise lonely meal alone—meant to me. And I’ve even been luckily enough that some of those otherwise lonely dinners blossomed into friendships which I hope last for a very long time to come.
During my journey across India, I fed the monkeys with the monks at Galta temple, partook in benedictions as the holy waters of the Ganges were tossed over us for blessings, sang in the puja with dozens of Hindu followers, ate alongside men in their yamakas, and listened as prayers from the mosques washed over me. I came across all these people of different faiths and beliefs yet one thing remains constant between all of them; they all want to be happy. It is a universal goal that ties all of us together.
When we focus on the fact that we all want to be happy, it ties us to a much bigger picture of life. That we are not alone; we are all connected and we all have similar hopes, dreams, and goals.
When we begin to sleepwalk through life and pull away from others, that is when we begin to be and feel truly alone. Do not be indifferent in life, making no contribution as to whether or not life is better or worse each day that you participate in it, instead actively decide to make a positive impact in the world each day, even if it is in the smallest of ways like smiling at a stranger.
As Elie Weisel reminds us “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
So live your life with the purpose to make a positive difference in this life everyday day, no matter how small.