The One Good Deed A Day Approach to Happiness

10 things you can do to snap out of your negativity today

Posted Jun 29, 2017

bogdan ionescu/Shutterstock
Source: bogdan ionescu/Shutterstock

Are you rude? Don't bother answering. Most of us are, most of the time, women and men included. You deserve this label if you're not respecting the people around you, taking them for granted or not even noticing them. Or worse: Bullying them or deliberately hurting them in other ways.

Being rude to others fosters immediate gratification in most cases, but in the long run it does nothing for your well-being. And it could actually you miserable by adding to your negative thinkinga surefire way to become unhappy.

We humans no longer have to kill and fight (literally) to make ends meet. But many of us go about life as if we were still in the competitive war zone of our ancestors. Yet even though we might struggle individually, we humans are not fundamentally enemies. We are very similar — and we have the gift of empathy

When you feel miserable, lonely or depressed, exercising that gift may help.

Doing something unexpectedly good for someone else — especially someone you don't even know — can make you feel human and alive again. It takes so little to do just that, and yet few people utilize this world-changing ability. Just one good deed a day can inspire a feeling of purpose in you, a feeling that there is meaning to your life. That feeling, even if only achieved once a day, can make the difference between depression and happiness.

Here are 10 ideas that might inspire you to do something good and admirable today:

  1. Let the car waiting to enter the road get out ahead of you in the midst of rush hour traffic. It won't make you any later than you already are.
  2. If you snap and speak rudely to someone in traffic, at the grocery store, or on the street, give them a sincere apology. 
  3. Give a non-creepy compliment to a stranger on the street. It can be as simple as "cute dog," if they are walking their dog.
  4. Give the "outcast" at your school or workplace a sincere compliment that cannot be misinterpreted as sarcasm.
  5. If one of your classmates or coworkers has been sidelined with a long-lasting illness, send them your best wishes. You might think everyone has already done this, but they haven't, because they also think everyone else has already done it.
  6. Put on a big smile when greeting the pizza delivery guy.
  7. Allow the customer with only one or two items who is patiently waiting in line behind you to go ahead of you at the store.
  8. Hold the door for the person entering the grocery store or your office or apartment building behind you.
  9. Give up your bus or train seat to an elderly woman or man, or a pregnant woman whose leg veins are about to explode from all the extra weight she is carrying.
  10. If you are adopting a dog at the shelter, adopt one that is older than 1 year old. The younger ones are generally more likely to get adopted by others.

Berit "Brit" Brogaard is a co-author of The Superhuman Mind.