“Do good, feel good” is one of the great truths of happiness. But you may be thinking, “Sure, good deeds would make me happy — but I barely have time to get through the essentials of my day. I don’t have time to do any good deeds!”
Wrong. Here are some ways that you can help other people — and also make yourself feel great— in under five minutes.
1. Be friendly. I’ve decided that there are five degrees of social interactions with strangers: hostile, rude, neutral, polite, and friendly. I find it very difficult to be downright friendly to strangers, but I always find myself energized and cheered by a friendly interaction. It only takes an extra minute to exchange a few pleasant words, but it makes a real difference.
2. Say “yes.” If you can, and if you should, say “yes.”
3. Say “no.” My sister, who is a TV writer in Hollywood, once told me, “’Yes’ comes right away; ‘no’ never comes.” Meaning, for example, that when she’s pitched an idea, if she doesn’t hear “yes” right away, it means they don’t like the idea. I’ve found this precept to be widely true. In many circumstances, we find it hard to say “no” — partly because it will hurt someone’s feelings, partly because it closes a possibility that could otherwise remain open. But waiting to hear “no” saps people’s energy by keeping them hoping for an answer they aren’t going to get. If someone is waiting for your “No,” put them out of their misery.
4. Sign up on the national organ-donor registry. This takes no time at all, and the consequences could be HUGE! Tell your family that you signed up, too. Remember, the one minute that someone takes, right now, to sign up on the registry might save YOUR life six months from now. And vice versa.
5. Lead them not into temptation. It can feel generous, friendly, and fun-loving to urge people to take another piece of cake, to drink another glass of wine, or to make an extra purchase, or to urge them to give themselves a break by skipping the gym, skipping class, or quitting smoking next week instead of today. But when you see people truly trying to resist temptation, encourage them to stick to their resolutions. My husband and I always encourage each other to go to the gym. It can feel a little Spartan, but in the end, we’re both much cheerier when we’ve exercised.
6. Do someone else’s chore. Don’t you sometimes wish that someone would do one of your little jobs? If nothing else, to show an awareness of the fact that you faithfully do it, day after day? Emptying the diaper pail or starting the office coffee-pot, even though it’s not “your” job, helps people feel appreciated and cared for. One of my Twelve Commandments is to “Spend out,” which reminds me not to keep score, not to focus so much on everything coming out even – like chores.