Today is Valentine’s Day, a day when many people exchange little gifts.
Often, the nicest gift isn’t something that can be purchased. We don’t always have time to perform a heroic act of thoughtfulness, but even quick good deeds can make a difference. Appling the tips below, I’ve been astonished by the huge benefits that have sometimes flowed from pretty minimal efforts on my part.
Key concepts to bear in mind as you do an easy good deed: imagination and follow-through:
1. Birthdays. This is so easy. Gather the dates of important birthdays, enter them into one of the internet reminder sites (I use Happybirthday.com), and send happy-birthday emails throughout the year. Super-bonus: two friends sent me emails yesterday for the Little Girl’s birthday—I was so touched.
2. Thinking of you. I’m working hard to send an email every time I think, “I wonder if So-and-So saw this article about broccoli” or “This reminds me of the time in college when So-and-So and I went shopping during a hurricane,” etc. It’s so nice to know that people are thinking of you.
3. Help people think big. Nothing is more encouraging than a friend throwing out some huge goal and saying, “You should do that!” “You should write a book, you should start your own firm, you should run for office, you should join the Council on Foreign Relations.” You never know, sometimes one encouraging comment can have extraordinary effect on someone’s life.
4. Recommendations. If you know of a terrific ____, tell your friends. Mention that you have a great source for some service or product, and remember to follow up with the referral information if asked. This seems too easy to qualify as a good deed, but a recommendation can be a huge help.
5. Introductions. For doing business, for blind dates, for people moving to a new city—making introductions can make someone’s life a lot easier. Connecting people is an extremely helpful good deed, so it’s worth a bit of thinking and prodding to make it happen.
Doing these quick good deeds doesn’t just benefit others. Over and over, I marvel that the one who benefits most—in boosted spirits—is me. Do good, feel good. It really works.
If you’re interested in the science of happiness, and larger issues of neurosicence and psychology, check out Mind Hacks. It highlights some of the most interesting research out there, with helpful summaries and links.