Words by Abi Scaife
The start of a new year is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start.
If you want to make 2023 one of spreading positivity and helping others, here are 15 ideas to get you started.
Did you know that most men will only receive flowers at their funerals? But we say why wait until someone is dead to make them happy, so they know they are loved and appreciated - even if it’s coming from a stranger.
Take a leaf out of Patricia’s book and give old flowers a new lease of life by handing them out to strangers. You never know - you could be just the thing to brighten someone’s day!
DO A CRAZY FUNDRAISER
Life is too short to be boring - if you have a cause you’re passionate about raising funds for, why not do it well? You don’t need to be a mega athlete like Gary McKee aka the Marathon Man - but if you have the imagination and creativity of the Scooter Grannies, you’re sure to make a difference.
Perhaps not one for those who are squeamish about blood or needles, but something that is always needed is blood donations. It doesn’t take up too much of your time, there are many places you can donate blood all around the country. Take a look at the NHS blood donation website to find out more!
FOSTER A PET
Most people are up for adopting an adorable puppy or kitten - especially when they come house-trained. But the real struggle for rescue centres is often housing the animals before they are adopted out into their permanent homes.
If you have plenty of space or work from home, could you volunteer your home and time as a foster parent to an animal?
HOST A GUIDE DOG IN TRAINING
Guide dogs help thousands of visually impaired people to regain independence, but training them can be a long process, and requires somewhere to house the dogs before they are paired up with their humans.
Guide dogs of all different ages need somewhere to live - from small puppies to those rambunctious teens, through to mums who are waiting to give birth. If you would love a dog but can’t afford the food and vet bills (which will be covered by the charity) or don’t have anyone to take care of them while you work, this might just be the one for you! Find out how.
MAKE COMPLIMENTS MORE AUTOMATIC
Scared about giving compliments but still want to make someone smile? The best thing to do is to compliment decisions and choices. Is he wearing some fantastic shoes? Has she braided her hair in a way you only wish you could? Is their eyeliner enviously sharp?
Make the decision to compliment people more actively - start on your friends (and always remember to be respectful!) and watch as giving compliments becomes second nature to you.
LEAVE GIFTS FOR STRANGERS
Want to make someone’s day but don’t feel up to confronting the situation head-on? Why not try leaving gifts for strangers? Take a look at Ursula from the flower bank, or Madeleine who left ‘worry worms’ for people in her community.
There is always a way to bring joy to people, even if you don’t feel like you are able to walk right up to a stranger and start talking to them. Find what works for you.
TAKE CARE OF THE BEES
You don’t need to go out and buy a beekeeper's hat for this one - it’s all about what you’re putting out into the world. If you have window boxes or a garden, or if you have the opportunity and influence to plant flowers anywhere else, make sure they are ones that the bees love.
We all know just how important bees are to our world, and what an impact they have on nature. If you can plant some flowers and make our world a little more beautiful, and help the bees at the same time, why wouldn’t you?
WALK DOGS FOR THOSE WHO CAN’T
So many people wish they could have a dog to walk, but simply don’t have the time, energy or money to dedicate to a pooch on a daily basis. So why not look into people in your community who have dogs that they need walking, either because they are temporarily unable to do so, they are too old, or they have an illness that makes walking difficult.
You can talk to people in your community to find out who is in need, or you can go through charities like the Cinnamon Trust.
HELP A FRIEND REACH NEW MILESTONES
Perhaps you have a friend who is anxious about ordering food in restaurants, or maybe you know someone who wants to complete an athletic challenge but doesn’t know where to begin.
You don’t need to be an expert, you just need to be present in their life - encouraging them, and letting them know that they have the space and support to succeed. Everyone needs a helping hand now and then.
INVEST IN SELF-CARE
Just like oxygen masks on an aeroplane, it becomes harder and harder to take care of others if you haven’t taken care of yourself first. So run a bath, force yourself to go outside (even if you REALLY don’t want to), and reread your favourite book - because you’re worth it!
Why are we letting cigarettes and food wrappers clog up our beautiful country? If you’re out walking anyway, why not take a litter picker and rubbish bag along with you? Make it a challenge with your friend and see how many you can pick up - the loser buys dinner.
BECOME A MENTOR
There are so many teenagers and young adults out there who would benefit from mentors - whether they need tutoring in a specific subject, or just need a friend. Talk to your friends with children, or join a local charity looking for people to help out.
Maybe you crack open a text book or two, or maybe you just drive them to Starbucks once a week and set the world to rights over a caramel frappe. Either way, you’re going to be making a huge difference. Check out this nationwide mentoring programme.
VOLUNTEER YOUR TECH-KNOWLEDGE
Libraries aren’t just for books - they are also the only place many people are able to access a computer or the internet. This makes it much harder for people to learn how to apply for jobs and benefits and gain important tech knowledge in an increasingly online world.
If you’re someone with basic computer skills and you want to help out, visit your local library and offer to run sessions teaching people how to use computers and the internet. It’s more important than you think.
DONATE YOUR WINTER COATS
Not everyone has a coat to keep them warm this winter - and this is especially true of people experiencing homelessness, as well as refugees and asylum seekers who had to leave much of their possessions behind. If you have a coat in good nick that you aren’t using, consider donating it to your local charity shop or to Coats4Calais.