5 Meaningful Ways to Help Others in the New Year


You may be making resolutions to improve your life as the year comes to a close.

Improving your health and habits is certainly a noble goal. Resolving to do more to help others can also have a big payoff.

Outreach benefits the community, certainly. Research also shows that helping others can lead to greater happiness, less stress, better pain management and better overall health. It may even help the elderly live longer.

Make this the year you help yourself by helping others. Here are five ways:

1. Offer Kindness Proactively

Pay attention to the people around you and what you can do to make their lives a little easier. An act of kindness, any simple gesture can improve someone's day. Let a car in front of you on the highway. Hold the door or elevator, and call a friend to see how they're doing. Check in on an elderly neighbor or bring dinner to someone who has been facing illness or a tough time. Being friendly and thoughtful can make a huge difference, and maintaining good relationships is actually good for your heart.

2. Volunteer Your Time

Community service is one of the best ways to improve the lives of others. Donating your time allows you to connect with your community and make it a better place. Volunteer work is also flexible: You can participate as much as your schedule allows, and you can choose opportunities that fit your interests and hobbies. The possibilities are endless:

  • Volunteer at a local school.
  • Help at a food bank.
  • Clean up a local park or beach.
  • Teach someone a skill.
  • Offer assistance to a local animal shelter or retirement home.

Reach out to libraries, religious organizations and community colleges to see if they sponsor any volunteer groups. You can find more options online at Volunteermatch.org.

3. Donate to a Cause

Few things are as easy or provide as much instant gratification as donating money to people in need. Recent research suggests that giving to charity may actually make the giver happier and healthier. There are many ways to donate money to charities online or in your local community. Another resolution-worthy way to donate? Ask people to support a certain charity in lieu of giving you a birthday or Christmas gift.

4. Donate Unused Items

The new year is a good time to organize and clear out your clutter. Rather than tossing out stuff you no longer need, donate it to someone who does. Free your home of unworn clothes and unused furniture. Your community likely has a Goodwill or Salvation Army that will accept your donations. Homeless shelters and food banks are happy to take unexpired canned goods off your hands, too.

Another idea is to donate blood. While this doesn't qualify as an "unused item," your body does replenish your blood supply, giving you some to spare. The American Red Cross sponsors blood drives in communities across the U.S., so find one near you to schedule an appointment.

5. Say "Thank You"

Make an effort to say "thank you" to every person who plays a part in your life, no matter how big or small. Expressing gratitude for another person's actions shows that you notice them. Send a quick note telling someone how much you appreciate them, how proud of them you are, or just to say thank you for something they did. You can also help others feel better about themselves by showing your appreciation publicly. Praising another in front of family or coworkers can have an impact that lasts beyond the moment itself.

In the new year, we encourage you to make your health a priority in ways that suit you. Along the way, don't forget to think about how you can help others reach their goals, too — it's likely to work out in your favor, anyway.