Having compassion for others and doing selfless things for other people is great for a few reasons. Firstly, other people will appreciate your empathy and it could help someone going through a hard time who really needs that help. Secondly, it will make you feel better to be compassionate and empathetic towards others. There is loads of evidence that being a compassionate person makes us happier and more fulfilled. So here are five simple acts of compassion that aren’t very difficult, and you can do almost every single day.
1) Give money to a homeless person
There has become a common sentiment in the past few years that giving money to homeless people does more harm than good: they’re likely to spend it on drugs or alcohol, you could do more good by volunteering, you could be giving that money to charity, etc. I reject this for two reasons: firstly, most homeless people are struggling to get by and money will help them onto their feet. Secondly, donating money to charity via a standing order divorces that money from its context of human suffering. Giving money to somebody face-to-face is a great way to re-engage the part of your brain responsible for empathy and gives you more of a dopamine boost, as well as making you more likely to carry out acts of compassion in future.
2) Pay someone a genuine compliment
Paying people compliments is great: it makes you feel good, it makes them feel good. It makes people like you more, and it makes people more likely to pay you compliments, which in turn will make you confident and improve your self-esteem. It’s the opposite of a vicious circle, it’s a virtuous circle.
3) Take a close friend or a family member out for a meal
Eating with family and friends is one of the few things that scientists are pretty much in universal agreement on: it makes us happier. Studies have shown that eating with people we care about gives us a huge dopamine boost and makes us feel better connected with the people we love. So, why not treat a friend or a family member to a meal at a restaurant you love? It doesn’t have to be expensive, you could go somewhere that does great “homemade” food for a reasonable price. And who knows, maybe next week (or next month) you’ll get treated to a meal out. This lets your loved one know that you care about them and love spending time with them.
4) Help someone who needs your help
I’ve written on here before about how much it meant to one of my friends when his car broke down and he was helped by a stranger. If you see someone who obviously needs your help, even with something that seems like it would inconvenience you slightly, I highly recommend that you do it. Helping other people feels good, and who knows how much they need that help? Helping other people also fosters a sense of community, and there’s often a ‘pass-it-on’ effect wherein the person you helped will be more likely to help someone else or be compassionate in some other way.
5) Smile at a stranger
Okay, okay. This is hardly some ground-breaking act of compassion. It isn’t spending hours helping in a soup kitchen, and it doesn’t involve donating vast amounts of money. But that’s a good thing – it’s easier and more likely you’ll be able to do it often. I remember when I was in a car and we allowed a young man to cross the road instead of driving straight past – he gave me the biggest, cheesiest grin, and I remembered it for a while and every time I thought of it I felt great that we’d let him cross first instead of simply driving on. Smiling at people can improve their mood, and smiling is said to be able to improve your mood too!