This column is part of an occasional series about how you, too, can make a difference. It is written by the head of our partner organization UniversalGiving, which helps people give and volunteer in more than 100 countries.
Readers, in earlier columns I’ve spoken about how you can help others. This column is about you!
You might have it all together. You have a successful job, a great spouse, two loving children, two dogs, two cars, even two homes. Life looks good. Or at least life looks good on the outside.
Or you might not have it all together. You have been successful in sales, but your attitude has gotten you in trouble, and you were just let go. You served your country dutifully; you are now on the streets. Your boyfriend of two years broke up with you, and you thought you were going to get married.
Whether you are on top of the world or feel you are holding it up, we all need help sometimes. Here are five ways to get to a better place.
1. Pay attention inside. If you’re looking for where to start, it is within you. It is the small voice, the conscience, the feeling in your stomach, heart, or throat that tells you what is right. I call it my Spiritual Gut Instinct (SGI). Whether or not you are religious, there is something invisible that is guiding you inside. If you are really listening, you will hear what is right and what is wrong to do. You’ll know better how to take steps to change.
2. Fill your mind with peace. I don’t know of any business that is grown through a negative or troubled outlook. I don’t know of any marriage that has sustained itself through complaints or worry. Great friendships, collaborations, flute performances, dance recitals, water polo games, speaking engagements, and investment partnerships are based on grounded, calm, peaceful thinking.
Setting aside peaceful time allows you to get your mind clear. Then you can go on to build great things. So pick a place, make it regular, and commit to peace in your mind.
3. Speak with someone you don’t know. Sometimes you need to take a practical step beyond yourself. A number of nonprofits provide a listening ear. Sidewalk Talk is a great, friendly resource in which caring people set up a space on the sidewalk, and you can stop by and talk. You can spill out your heart and share your concerns. Being listened to affirms who we are and makes us feel valued.
Remember, too, that shared time is a great way to connect and relax. Watching a comedy show or taking part in a group activity allows you to stop focusing on yourself, which provides relief and healing.
4. Get out in nature. There’s nothing quite so healing as being a part of our larger, beautiful world. Try being a tourist in your hometown. I am sure there is something peaceful to see.
A study published in PLOS ONE found that people immersed in nature for four days experienced a 50 percent boost in their performance on a creative problem-solving task. Other research has found exercise in nature to be associated with better moods and self-esteem.
Such outings help you rise far above your latest concern or self-doubt. Nature can lift you higher.
5. List your gratitude. What happened today? What was great about it? Let’s not take that for granted. Let’s not forget the following: Your sweet Labrador loves you, with every wag of its tail. The sun is shining after 23 straight days of rain. There is refreshing rain during a drought. Your neighbor was kind to you. You can decide what to eat tonight, whereas about a tenth of people in the world do not have that choice.
No day goes by without goodness in it. It is up to you to claim the good. It will help you no matter what life throws at you.
Sometimes we can give to others. Sometimes we need help. I hope these steps will keep you out of the depths and help you reach higher heights.
• Pamela Hawley is the founder and chief executive officer of UniversalGiving. She is a recipient of the Jefferson Award – the Nobel Prize of community service. She also writes the blog “Living and Giving.”