By Hugo

Small actions, like picking up trash, can inspire others.
Spreading happiness and positivity benefits you and others.
Your individual actions, especially when inspiring, can create substantial change.
If I said that the world is currently suffering and it needs your help, would you agree with me? The growing gap between the rich and the poor, the climate crisis, conflicts all over the world: these are just a couple of examples of a world that needs our help.

While this list can go on and on, I’m going to focus on the positives today. Mainly, how can you help make the world a better place? What can you do to help the world, as an individual? Even though your own actions can sometimes feel insignificant when looking at the grander scheme, you still have the power to change the world for the better.

This article discusses 13 things you can do to make the world a better place. Interestingly enough, most of these things are proven to make your life more interesting and happier in the process. So let’s get to it

Can you really make the world a better place?
We all want to make the world a better place, right? Not just for ourselves, but also for future generations.

But to think we can solve all of the world’s problems seems naive.

I’m always reminded of a meme that shows a person who’s proud of banning the use of plastic straws, while someone else crushes that sentiment by showing a picture of the great Pacific garbage patch.

Such comparisons always raise the question: “Do my actions have any meaningful consequences?”

I recently read Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land” and one passage really stood out to me:

… On every issue, it seemed, we kept bumping up against somebody – a politician, a bureaucrat, some distant CEO – who had the power to make things better but didn’t.

A Promised Land – Barack Obama
He wrote this to explain his motives for becoming a politician. I don’t want to turn this post into a political one, but I do want to say that I really respect Barack Obama for believing in change.

But we don’t all have the set of skills required to enter politics or to become a CEO of a big company. The question remains: can we still make the world a better place?

Why inspiration is so important to make the world a better place
Even though you don’t have the power to single-handedly abolish racism, solve income inequality or clean the great pacific garbage patch, you do have the power to inspire others.

Your power to inspire others is the key to making the world a better place.

Here’s a fun example that always comes to mind: at the start of 2019, my girlfriend decided to become a vegetarian. I was initially hesitant, as I was afraid it would interfere with my own habits.

But over time, I noticed how easy it was for her to not eat meat. In fact, I was too lazy to prepare 2 different meals each night, so I joined her in her vegetarian diet. One year later, I officially declared myself a vegetarian!

Some months later, my girlfriend decided to try a 100% plant-based diet. This time, I thought, there’s no way in hell I’m ever going to follow suit. “It’s just too big of a pain in the ass”, or so I thought.

Long story short: she eventually inspired me to join her in the vegan life. We’re both trying to live a life free of animal consumption, and we’re happier for it. In fact, we’ve inspired some of our friends and family to also lower their consumption of animal products. And that’s how the power of inspiration can help you make the world a better place.

You have the power to do good on a small scale. Your actions are able to inspire others, who will then spread those actions to their friends and family. This snowball will continue to grow, and can eventually have a big impact on the world (with or without your awareness of it).

Why being good translates to being happy
There’s a beautiful synergy that I want to highlight here. Most of the things that I’ve included in this article are beneficial to your own mental health as well.

So even though picking up trash might sound like a total bummer, doing so still has a positive impact on your own mental health! Being a good person is often proven to result in being happier and healthier, even though doing good deeds doesn’t always seem like fun.

I’m not making this up! I’ve done my best to reference as many studies as possible that show how being a good person translates to being a happy person.

This means that making the world a better place doesn’t have to feel like a sacrifice to you. We can all benefit from these things.

13 ways to make the world a better place
Here are 13 things you can to make the world a better place, some small and others big. What they all have in common is that these things can all inspire others to follow suit. Whatever way you choose to help the world become better, your actions have the power to inspire the people around you.

And that’s how you can make the world a better place.

  1. Stand up for equality
    A lot of the world’s human conflicts can be traced back to inequality. Whenever a group of people is treated unfairly, there is going to be a conflict eventually. And the world will be a worse place because of it.

Whether that’s:

Deep-rooted racism.
Mistreatment of anyone who doesn’t follow the rules of the Bible.
The (still existing) gender pay gap.
Hate speech.
You have the power to speak up about it.

Even though you are not directly experiencing any negative effects of these inequalities, you can make the world a better place by speaking up and acknowledging your own stance.

So the next time your colleague makes a slightly sexist joke, or you see someone being mistreated because of their sexuality, just know that you have the power to show your disapproval.

  1. Stop consuming animal products
    I recently shared a newsletter in which I talked about my personal view on sustainability in the world. The newsletter included some – admittedly – harsh truths about why I am now a strong proponent of embracing a 100% plant-based life.

As a result, a lot of our subscribers said “screw this shit, I’m outta here!” and clicked the unsubscribe button. In fact, it was the worst email newsletter I ever sent if you looked at the number of unsubscribes and spam complaints.

It showed me that a lot of people don’t want to be faced with the urgent message that we need to reduce our consumption of animal products.

So I won’t bother you with those pesky details in this article. If you want to know more about how your consumption of animal products impacts the world, here’s a decent resource. As I stated in the introduction, I want to focus on the positives, so here goes:

Did you know that embracing a sustainable lifestyle is linked to happiness?

We recently surveyed over ten thousand Americans and asked about their lifestyle. We found that people who don’t consume meat are actually happier than those who do, by as much as 10%!

If you want to make the world a better place, I would argue that sustainable behavior is a fairly safe gamble. You don’t have to go all-in at once, because success is achieved with small steps. While it may require some sacrifices, rewards like psychological well-being and satisfaction, and the continued existence of natural resources, make at least trying worth it.

  1. Be happier
    I started Tracking Happiness (this website) a long time ago. At the time, it was just a small one-man show. A tiny blog.

This tiny blog was entirely focused on happiness. Its message was that the most important thing in life is – you guessed it – your happiness. Nothing else. Wealth, success, love, adventures, fitness, sex, fame, whatever. It all doesn’t matter, as long as you’re happy. After all, happiness is correlated to all kinds of positive things, from confidence to creativity.

It’s because there’s a lot of proof that shows that more happiness in the world would lead to fewer conflicts. Also, being happy at what you do makes you better at what you do.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the world is not only better with you in it. The world would be a better place if you were as happy as you can.

We all deserve to be happy. If you focus more on your own happiness, you’re indirectly making the world a better place.

  1. Spread your happiness to others
    Now that we know that a happy world is a better world, it must be clear why it’s important to spread happiness to others.

Studies have found that laughter is contagious and that the act of smiling can help make you feel happier. Our tendency to mimic the facial expressions and body language of those around us can have a powerful effect on our moods.

But spreading happiness is not only a great way to make the world a better place, it’s also surprisingly effective at making ourselves happier. By trying to lift the mood of others, we will indirectly lift our own happiness as well.

How can you put this to practice?

Smile to a stranger.
Try to laugh when you’re around others (not in an awkward way!). Laughter is one of the best remedies for sadness.
Do something nice for somebody else, a random act of kindness.
Make a compliment to somebody else and notice how it affects their happiness.

  1. Allow yourself to be vulnerable
    Being vulnerable is often thought of as being weak. This is especially true for men, even though most of them are probably not aware of it (including yours truly).

I’ll use myself as an example: I often find it hard to show my emotions, especially around people that I don’t personally care about. If a colleague has a terrible day at work, I’m probably the last guy in the room to give that person a hug.

It’s not that I don’t want to be compassionate, it’s just that I grew up with the idea that needing support is a sign of weakness. As if asking for help is somehow bad.

Terrible! This train of thought has kept me from showing appreciation, love and compassion, even though I really wish I should have. I try to get rid of this notion, and it’s proving to be a challenge so far.

But I believe the world would be a better place if more people tried to let their guards down. Here’s a great article that contains actionable ways to show compassion.

  1. Be a volunteer
    Most people see volunteering as a good and noble endeavor, but many are reluctant to actually volunteer. Our lives are busy as they are, so why should you spend your time and energy on something that doesn’t pay?

Volunteering is a fantastic way to make the world a better place. Most volunteers spent their time helping those who need it most. By doing so, they are indirectly reducing the amount of inequality in the world (which was the first thing to do in this article).

It may not come as a surprise that volunteering is also proven to positively enhance your own happiness.

A 2007 study found that people who volunteer consistently report to be healthier both physically and mentally than those who do not.

Another important finding of this study was that those who were less well socially integrated benefited the most, meaning that volunteering may be a way to empower groups who are socially excluded otherwise.

  1. Pick up trash
    Picking up trash is probably the most actionable way to make the world a better place, from an environmental and ecological point of view.

There’s simply nothing that stops you from going out right now, to bring an empty trash bag and to fill it by picking up trash. Depending on where you live, you can fill one or two bags of trash by just going for a 30-minute walk around the block.

Even though this may seem like an inconsequential thing to do, you should not underestimate the power of inspiration here. Whenever I’ve gone out to pick up trash myself, I’ve had multiple people stop by for a quick chat. They all let me know how much they think that it’s amazing that somebody spends their (free) time picking up trash.

As an indirect result, I believe these people are more inclined to think twice before throwing out their garbage on the street. In fact, there’s a growing movement of people that go out there to pick up trash in their free time. There is even a subreddit with over 100,000 members that talk about their experiences picking up trash.

That’s probably because picking up trash is one of the simplest and most actionable ways to help make the world a better place.

  1. Don’t judge others too soon
    Have you ever noticed how easy it is to judge others, without actually knowing what they’re dealing with?

I’m unfortunately a perfect example of this questionable habit. I recently saw an overweight man riding a bicycle. The shirt he was wearing was undersized and his pants were a little down. As a result, he showed a massive buttcrack to everyone he passed on the street. According to most standards, this was not a pretty sight. 😅

I was quick to make a jokey comment about it to my girlfriend. “Hey look, he’s probably on his way to the nearest McDrive”, I laughed while sneakily pointing to the man.

My girlfriend – having a better functioning moral compass than I have – quickly pointed out that I have no idea what shit he may be dealing with.

She was 100% right. It’s so easy to judge others for the way they look, dress, behave or appear. What we don’t know is how quickly our way of thinking becomes adapted to those negative judgmental thoughts. Especially when nobody ever speaks up about your negativity.

I’m happy my girlfriend made me realize how judgmental I was. Hell, maybe I should have asked her to write this article instead of me.

I recently saw this image on Twitter, that perfectly encapsulates what I mean here:

My point here is that judging others comes easy for most of us. It’s tempting to point out flaws in other people, as it makes us feel better about ourselves. But it’s really important to realize that this behavior is not making the world a better place.

Instead, the world would be better off if we’d focus more of our energy on highlighting someone’s strengths. Being a judgmental person all the time won’t help the world.

  1. Try to think positive and spread your happiness
    This one expands on the previous tip. Instead of being judgmental all the time, why not spend that same energy in trying to be more positive?

There’s plenty of proof that positivity makes the world a better place. Here’s a simple example from the Medical University of Rochester:

Researchers reviewed the results of over 80 studies to look for common findings. They found optimism had a remarkable impact on physical health. The study examined overall longevity, survival from a disease, heart health, immunity, cancer outcomes, pregnancy outcomes, pain tolerance, and other health topics. It seemed that those who had a more optimistic outlook did better and had better results than those who were pessimistic.

Can Optimism Make a Difference in Your Life?
While this proves the impact that positivity has on an individual, there’s also science that shows how positive behavior can increase happiness in those you interact with. This study found that your happiness can spread to your friends, which then spreads to their friends, and so on.

As we discussed earlier, a happy world is a better world to live in. So by thinking positively and spreading your happiness, you’re making the world a better place!

  1. Help someone out for free
    Whereas the previous tip lacked an actionable takeaway, this tip is super easy to implement.

By helping someone out for free, you’re spreading your positivity to others while also closing the gap between those who are in need and those who are well off already.

What can you do to implement this idea and make the world a better place?

Help out a colleague with a project of theirs.
Do some grocery shopping for an elder.
Give some of your food to a food bank.
Provide your support for a good cause at a rally.
Find opportunities to give compliments.
Give someone a lift.
Offer a listening ear to your friend or colleague.
Give away some of your stuff to a thrift shop.
This idea applies to everything. Even though your help is not requested, and you don’t stand to profit from giving away your time, you’ll be making the world a better place.

Especially when you lend out your free help to someone who needs it most (like a group of people that’s treated unfairly).

  1. Donate to good causes
    The last tip in this list is also relatively simple and actionable. Donating money to a good cause is one of the simplest ways to make the world a better place.

You are probably reading this from a Western country. This means that you’re already better off than >50% of the world. As we discussed earlier in this article, there are a lot of people in the world that haven’t had as much luck as you.

So whether it’s the environment you want to support, animal welfare, refugee care, or hunger in Africa, you must know that you can make a difference.

And even when you won’t benefit directly from donating to a good cause, you will still feel happier as a result.

A well-known study once organized around 500 participants to play 10 rounds of a word-puzzle game. In each round, they could win 5 cents. They could either keep it or donate it. Afterward, they had to note down their level of happiness.

The outcome revealed that those who donated their winnings were happier compared to those who kept their winnings for themselves.

Another interesting series of studies by Michael Norton and Elizabeth Dunn had similar results. More than 600 people were interviewed in one of the studies. They were asked questions to find out how much they made, how much they spent, and how happy they were.

It was again discovered that people who spent more on others felt happier than those who spent it on themselves. The studies showed that the amount of money given hardly had an impact. What mattered is the intention behind it.

So if you want to make the world a better place but are still not sure what to do, think of a good cause you believe in and donate.

  1. Practice active listening
    In a world filled with distractions, taking the time to truly listen to someone can be a powerful way to make a difference.

Active listening involves fully concentrating, understanding, and responding to what someone is saying, rather than just passively hearing them. By practicing active listening, you show empathy, understanding, and respect, which can strengthen relationships and foster a sense of belonging.

Next time you’re in a conversation, resist the urge to formulate your response while the other person is speaking. Instead, focus entirely on their words, ask clarifying questions if needed, and give feedback only after they’ve finished speaking. This simple act can make the person feel valued and heard, promoting positive interactions and understanding.

  1. Reduce digital waste
    While we often think of environmental conservation in terms of physical waste, our digital habits also have an impact on the environment. Every email sent, photo stored, or website visited requires energy, contributing to our carbon footprint.

By being mindful of our digital consumption, we can reduce unnecessary energy use and promote a more sustainable digital ecosystem.

Regularly clean up your email inbox, deleting unnecessary emails and unsubscribing from newsletters you no longer read. Additionally, consider using cloud storage judiciously, deleting duplicate or unnecessary files. By adopting these habits, you not only declutter your digital space but also contribute to a greener digital environment.


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