By making some small positive changes every day, it's possible to be a better person not only for yourself, but for everyone around you. That's what naturally happens when you take steps towards your own self-improvement, while also remembering to be mindful — and caring, and appreciative, etc. — when interacting with others.
Whether it's holding a door open for a stranger, calling a friend, or slowing down for five second to let someone into traffic, a sort of ripple effect of positivity can result. "One small act for good can make an impact you may never know, both in your own life and the lives of others," author and life coach Jaya Jaya Myra tells Bustle. "It's the series of small things that add up to the big ones, and as such, it's the small things that will lead to the most meaningful changes."
That's what I mean by "being a better person." Sure, I'm talking about self-improvement and self-care. But I'm also talking about paying attention to how you interact with the world, and the chain reaction of goodness that can pour forth from there. Being a better person is worth that tiniest bit of extra effort. Read on for some great places to start.
1. Start Your Day Off Right
Ever notice how you feel cranky when your morning is rushed and stressful? Well, that's not going to do you, or anyone else, any good. So vow, from now on, to do you before work. Take the time to meditate, stretch, read for a little — whatever makes you feel relaxed and calm. As clinical psychotherapist and health coach Ally Bowen, LISW-CP says, "This will set you up for being your best self throughout the entire day." And that'll overflow into other people's days, too.
2. Remember To Eat Breakfast
Not everyone's in love with the idea of eating first thing in the morning. But if you can stomach it, definitely get some nutrients in your bod to prevent a "hangry" episode later on. "This may be one of the biggest things that matter for each day," Bowen says. "I could preach on this all day, but breakfast matters if you want to start your day being your best self."
3. Acknowledge The People You See
You can walk down the sidewalk and stay in your own little world. But it sure is nice to acknowledge people along the way — either by smiling, saying good morning, or giving a little nod. "This simple act not only sends the happy endorphins into orbit, but you are now giving away a free, simple act to every person you encounter," Bowen says. "Many get caught up in feeling they have nothing to give, yet eye contact and a smile are free and require no special skill."
4. Be Kind In Little Ways
Whether you're simply saying good morning to your barista, or holding the door for someone, these little moments can make a huge difference. "It's easy to focus on yourself and rush off to where you are going," says therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. But by slowing down and doing something kind, like holding that door, she tells me it can really turn around your day — as well as someone else's.
5. Be Helpful In Little Ways
It's so easy to walk by a piece of garbage in the street, or leave an abandoned shopping cart in the parking lot. And yet it's also so easy to pitch in and help out. "Small, simple gestures are you showing respect, gratitude, and appreciation," says Erin Asquith, LCSW, a marriage and family therapist. And that's kind of a big deal.
6. Chat With Someone You Don't Know
If you usually breeze on by your coworkers, or ignore that guy in the elevator, chat 'em up instead. "Studies show that having meaningful connections and doing random acts of kindness contribute to levels of happiness," says psychologist Dr. Crystal I. Lee. It may feel weird at first, but it's totally worth it.
7. Try To Be More Mindful
You don't have to meditate the whole day through, but you can slow down and appreciate things. "You can practice mindfulness by being fully present in a moment for just a couple of minutes," Lee says. "So maybe the next time you take your coffee break, drink your coffee mindfully ... Doing something small like this will be a better recharging break for you, which will make you a 'better person' for the rest of the day."
8. Shift Your Perspective
Pay attention to your automatic thoughts, and work on shifting your perspective away from the negative. "Say, for example, your power goes out unexpectedly," Jaime Pfeffer, a success and life coach, tells Bustle. "After the initial shock wears off, you could spend the afternoon calling people and complaining (which really doesn't help anything) or you could look at it from a different point of view, such as a time to reconnect with your family." See the difference?
9. Give Everyone The Benefit Of The Doubt
In a similar vein, your days will feel way less negative if you stop assuming the worst of people. Let's say you go into work, say "hey" to a coworker, and she completely blows you off. You can feel mad and hurt, or you can give her the benefit of the doubt and assume her reaction had nothing to do with you.
"When you do, your interactions ... will be more positive, because you're not just feeling better about her, you're subtly treating her better," says coach Sandy Weaver. "Plus, you won't be inflicting painful, judgmental thoughts on yourself about yourself. It's a win/win and will go a long way towards making you the kind of person people want to be around."
10. Stay In Touch
If you haven't called your mom in a minute (or your dad, or your aunt) go do it right now. "Everyone is so busy these days, they often forget or don’t have time to talk or visit with people they care about," psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. It only takes five minutes, but it'll mean so much to her. And to you.
11. Organize Your Life
Spend a few minutes every morning jotting down a to do list and planning out your day. As Rappaport tells me, this'll not only keep you organized and on track throughout the day, but it'll keep your stress levels down. And I think we could all use more of that.
12. Let Your Appreciation Show
One of the easiest ways to make other people feel great, while also feeling better yourself, is to show some gratitude. "Start with actually feeling the gratitude when you say 'thank you,'" Georgian Benta, host of The Gratitude Podcast, tells Bustle. "[Let] people know you appreciate them and what you appreciate about them: your family, your friends, the people from your favorite coffee place, your coworkers, the waiter at the restaurant that’s been very kind, or the cook that made you a great meal." It's a small gesture that makes a big impact.
13. Work On Improving Yourself A Tiny Bit Every Day
Make an effort, every day, to take a step towards self-improvement. And one way to do that is by creating a list of things you'd like to be and do, and referring to it each morning. "You may find a picture or quote that embodies the attribute," coach and counselor Renée Jones tells Bustle. "Put it where you see it daily. Looking at what you want every day will focus your thoughts and feelings in that direction."
14. Give Little Gifts
If you see an opportunity to show someone you were thinking of them, take it. "If you are heading out of the office to pick up your lunch or a cup of coffee, or go to the post office, why not ask your boss or coworkers if you can get them something?" Rappaport asks. It's such a small gesture, but it's one that'll make you both feel good.
15. Keep Your Promises
"If you say you are going to do something, do it," Rappaport says. Text that friend back, put the dishes away, return the email, etc. It's OK if something comes up and you can't be on point all day, but try to bounce back and be a person of your word, whenever possible.
Because, when it comes to being a better person, it's all about how you carry yourself, but also how you treat others. Be kind, be grateful, and show people you care. Everyone will feel better as a result.
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