10 Not-So-Silly Ways to Make the World a Better Place

better place

As honorable an intention as it is to want to be a better person and make the world a better place, it can seem a little serious, can’t it?

Here then are 10 seemingly tiny, maybe even silly, ways to leave the world a little better than you found it. These quick little hits are things you could put in to practice today. Try them and you’ll see – for something so little, they actually pack a pretty big punch in helping you feel better about yourself and the world in general!

  1. Return your grocery cart to the parking lot corral
    This idea came from Nicole at Girl in a Boy House in her hilarious review of How to Be a Better Person. I don’t think anyone really enjoys going to the grocery store. But when you’re in the parking lot and there are no spaces except for ones that have been taken up by empty grocery carts that people didn’t return to the corral that’s only 10 steps away, it can really put a mental hitch in your giddy-up. You can take those extra 10 steps, right? Your FitBit, and humanity, will thank you. 
  1. Let people make a left-hand turn
    This is a real Rhode Island tradition that at first confounded me (in New York City, where I lived for 15 years before moving here, you never interrupted the flow of traffic; EVER). When you are the first car at a red light and the car headed in the opposite direction needs to take a left-hand turn, you let them go first. A little wave of the hand or flick of the lights lets them know it’s OK to go. Traffic studies show that left-hand turns slow down the flow of all cars in general. Letting someone go first helps you do your part to get everyone where they’re going with a little less aggravation. It also makes the other driver’s day. So, why not?
  1. Give more positive reviews
    This goes for Yelp as much as it does your actual life—don’t let the only time you give feedback be when you’ve got something to complain about. In fact, make it your goal to give positive reviews pretty much only (unless there’s really just some injustice that needs your voice). What you focus on grows, so focus on what’s going well.
  1. Put things back where they go
    It’s not that hard: you need something, you get it out, you use it, and then you put it back. That way, your space stays clutter-free and ready to support you in whatever you choose to do next. (The people you live with will also appreciate it; trust me.)
  1. Please be neat and wipe the seat!
    Ladies, need I say more??
  1. Pick up the poop
    Petting and snuggling with a dog is fun; picking up the poop is not. But poop is a fact of life. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away—it makes your mess someone else’s bad day when they inadvertently step in it. Whatever your version of dog poop is (the food your kids dropped on the floor at restaurants, the trash in your car that you might be tempted to throw out the window, the late-night snack that ended up as crumbs on the couch), do everyone a favor and put it where it belongs. It’s just the right thing to do.
  1. No more “I’m fine”
    The next time someone asks how you are, resist the urge to say “fine” and share something that’s true for you at this moment: hungry, irritated, happy for no apparent reason, a little punchy. In other words, be real. You’ll connect with the other person who will either want to hear more or think a little more deeply about his response when you ask, And how are you?
  1. Stop group texting
    OK, this one might just be me. When my phone starts dinging like crazy because of a group text, my stress level (and my heart rate) skyrockets. Email’s the place for group discussions. Who’s with me?
  1. Tell her about the spinach
    Don’t let a friend or a co-worker walk around all day with spinach in her teeth! All you need to do is say, “Oh, gosh, there’s something in your teeth, right here.” And then point to that spot on your own mouth. Stay with her until it’s gone. It’s just the right thing to do.
  1. Look people in the eye
    I lived in New York City on 9/11. It was devastating. Terrifying. But there was also a beauty in it because for those first few days, everyone looked each other in the eye—on the sidewalk, the subway platform, in the bodega. All the places people normally keep their gaze to themselves, we all looked up and met each other’s looks. It’s what got us through, to remember that we were all in this together. Try it today, you’ll see.

What things am I missing? Leave a comment below.

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