Studies have shown that being altruistic (doing something for others without expecting a reward in return) can activate the joy centre in our brains (the left, pre-frontal cortex). And the more that part of the brain is activated, the more resources we have available to us, including a greater ability to move through stress and less of a tendency to get caught up in over-analytical thinking and/or negativity. So, even though we do something without expecting anything back, there is a natural reward that occurs from being kind to others. Isn’t that amazing?
There are countless ways to be altruistic. Donating to a charitable organisation is one common way, but there are many simple things that you can do that are free and don’t even require you to leave the comfort of your computer. I am often astounded by the amount of information that is available on the Internet, and when I stop to think about how much of what is there has been created and posted by people as an act of kindness to others, I feel immediately grateful.
Below are some simple things that you can do to exercise your altruistic muscles, online:
1. Write a review on TripAdvisor or on an online forum to let others know about your experience at a restaurant, hotel or attraction. And don’t only do so if you have something negative to say.
2. Even better, if you’ve experienced good service or a warm welcome at a place that you visit, email the establishment directly and let them know – quoting the name of the employee who was most helpful.
3. Find some discussion boards in your area of expertise and answer questions that people are asking or start a new thread with some helpful advice that is lacking there. For example, my partner finds a lot of excellent information on computer forums, but he also knows a lot about computers himself. I often encourage him to post at least one tip for each bit of advice he takes from others.
4. Find a nice image that is relevant to a friend or family member and post it on their ‘wall’ on Facebook. For example, if your friend likes cats, find a cute cat photo or video and send it to them. They will smile and know you are thinking about them.
5. Sign up to a happiness app, like Happier. Not only can you post your happy moments on there (not so altruistic, but healthy nonetheless), you can also smile at and reply to other people’s happy moments, which will make them even happier.
6. Tweet an encouraging message on Twitter to your followers.
7. Send a note to a friend on Facebook (either publically or privately) or via email to let them know you are grateful for their friendship.
8. Write a blog post about something that could help other people, for example there may have been something that you struggled with in the past, but were able to overcome. Let the world know how you came to a solution.
9. Go onto a public Instagram account and leave a nice message for a stranger under a picture that particularly stands out for you.
10. Put an offer to help people in your community in some way on an online forum. For example, in London we have a site called Streetlife where you can ask your neighbours to borrow their tools or for advice on local services. One person often buys delicious oranges from Borough Market and loads them up in her car. On Streetlife, she offers to deliver them to anyone who wants some in her area, for free!
Any more thoughts, please post them in the comments! And remember – altruism = joy. Choose joy.