It’s well known that people who give to charity have higher life satisfaction (Gallup World Polls, 2006 and 2008), but what you may not realize is that you don’t have to give huge sums of money or dedicate significant amounts of time in order to make a difference in the lives of others. In her new book, Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day, Jennifer Iacovelli explores easy ways to incorporate giving into our overly hectic personal and professional lives.
See also: Yes, You Can Become a Happier Person
Even though Iacovelli, founder of Simple Giving Lab, had worked for years in the non-profit sector, she still found herself questioning the nature of philanthropy. “What does it mean to give back?” she wrote in an early blog on the topic. “And how do I build philanthropy into my daily life?”
One way to start is to consider what kind of giving will help you feel as though you are actually making a difference. Is it important for you to see the impact of your donation, like a bricks and mortar building or new textbooks for a low income school? Do you prefer to get your hands dirty and do some of the work yourself, as in helping to build a Habitat for Humanity home? Is your experience more meaningful when you share it with others?
See also: The Power of Volunteering
If you’ve asked yourself these questions but you’re still stuck, Iacovelli suggests five easy action steps you can take right now, no matter where you are or what you have.
1. Write a gratitude note. Think of someone who has done something for you, write them a thank you letter, and read it to them. This act, inspired by Dr. Martin Seligman’s TED talk on positive psychology, should have a profound effect on both you and the recipient.
2. Do something philanthropic with a friend or family member. It feels better to serve alongside others.
3. Perform a random act of kindness. This kind of connection will make you happier, and your recipients will feel good too. Doing this can create a domino effect of kindness.
4. Take note of what makes you smile. Then share it on The Smile Epidemic or another website that invites positive input from the masses. These online gratitude journals encourage sharing to promote positive thinking and create happy communities.
5. Help a friend in need. Seize the opportunity to create a deeper connection and practice compassion while letting a friend know that he or she is not alone.
“Get the idea out of your head that you need lots of money and time to give back in a meaningful way,” says Iacovelli. “Grab some friends and bring them along for the ride. Inspire others to join you. Take a few risks, if you can. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you are committed to making giving a part of everyday life.”