A little bit of positivity goes a long way and a good deed doesn’t just benefit the person on the receiving end. Scientists have found a selfless act can make us feel better and can even work as a painkiller.
So here are 20 things you can do for 2020 that won’t just help others, they’ll actually make you feel happier, healthier and more fulfilled…
Knit to help premature babies
Join the thousands of volunteers knitting little octopuses for babies up and down the country. They’re not toys but medical devices that stop babies from pulling on their tubes while they’re in incubators.
Knitting even has its own health benefits and can lead to lower blood pressure . Get involved by visiting octopusforapreemie.com.
Join a brass band
Tooting a tuba can help to relieve stress, improve mental health and make your lungs as efficient as an athlete’s.
With a bit of practice, you’ll be making sweet music others can enjoy and studies have shown music improves blood flow in ways similar to statins, lowering levels of stress-related hormones.
Laughter really is the best medicine – it releases endorphins which enhance our sense of wellbeing, can temporarily relieve pain and if you do it for 10 to 15 minutes a day, it can burn around 40 calories.
Because laughter is infectious, you’ll be spreading the joy far and wide.
Donate stem cells, sperm and eggs
Give someone with blood cancer a second chance at life by joining the stem cell register at anthonynolan.org.
And donating your sperm or eggs to couples who can’t conceive is giving them the gift of new life. Visit hfea.gov.uk.
Borrow a dog
If you can’t commit to having your own dog, why not borrow one you can take for walks?
You’ll be helping out a dog owner and get out in nature with your new pal. Petting a dog can lower heart rate and blood pressure. Visit borrowmydoggy.com.
Run to help the elderly
Want to get fit and help the community at the same time? Run to an older person’s home where you can team up with other runners and help with something they are struggling to do themselves, such as tending to the garden or putting heavy shopping away. Visit goodgym.org.
Donate your hair
Giving yourself an image revamp will boost your mental wellbeing and confidence, and you can donate your tresses to charity.
Little Princesses littleprincesses.org.uk make wigs for children with cancer or, if you’re feeling brave, go for the shave in aid of Macmillan. bravetheshave.macmillan.org.uk
Plant a tree
A chemical released by trees and plants – phytoncide – boosts the immune system. So get involved by planting a tree with the Mirror’s MillionMirrorTrees campaign or donate to a charity that will plant trees in other countries.
Feed the birds
Our feathered friends rely on our help during the winter months when food is scarce. Those who live in areas where there are more birds are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress.
Write someone a letter
You can’t beat sending a letter or a card to a friend or relative who might need cheering up. You’ll feel great for making their day and it’ll make you put the phone to one side for a while.
Bake a cake
Making a cake is an excellent way of practising mindfulness if meditation isn’t for you and it gives your loved ones a treat, too.
When we hug, it stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates the production of white blood cells and helps to keep us healthy, and boosts the immune system. Good for the hugger and huggee.
Join a choir
Choirs can help combat loneliness and many also give back to the community – the Liberty Choir sings in prisons and Bee Vocal is a mental health charity choir in Manchester.
Find a roomie
A lovely scheme which helps young people with accommodation when rent is sky-high while giving an older person support and company is homeshare.org.
They find an older householder with a room to spare and carefully match them with a younger person who will provide support.
Pool your skills
A great way to get to know your neighbours is getting together and pooling your skills so you can help each other out in times of need.
That plumber at the end of the road could one day come in very handy and your secret painting and wallpaper-hanging skills could make you a star of the street.
The trend of decorating rocks and hiding them in public places allows you to use your imagination, helps curb anxiety and provides a lovely gift for a stranger.
Love on the Rocks has 96,000 members on Facebook .
Take part in a litter pick on the coast to help Britain’s marine life and your wellbeing. Studies have found people who live near the coast are generally healthier and happier. Find your nearest at mcsuk.org/beachwatch/events
Instead of splurging on new clothes, head to one of the many clothes swap events around the UK. It’s sustainable fashion by keeping your old clothes out of landfill and cheaper than hitting the shops.
Read to patients
A shocking two-fifths of patients on UK hospital wards get no visitors. But the Royal Voluntary Service at volunteering.royalvoluntaryservice.org can help you find the perfect voluntary role, from reading and chatting to them on a ward to helping patients settle back in at home. Reading frequently increases emotional intelligence as we understand a range of perspectives and keeps the brain active.
Grow your own veg
Get into gardening – whether your own or in an allotment – and donate any leftover veg to a foodbank or to a neighbour. You’ll ditch the plastic packaging and eat healthier.
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