Take a few moments now to think about how you can find the hidden gifts of giving in your own life:

  • Keep a journal about the large and small ways you are giving to people right now. If you are having trouble thinking of any (I hope not!), ask a friend or loved one. You may be surprised to find that a friendly smile, a question about how things have been going, or an offer to pick up groceries helped someone through a rough patch and allowed him or her to keep going. Once a week, write down all things you thought of, and discover how much you are already giving! Jot down how helping others makes you feel, in terms of meaning, joy, and health. Keep doing this for the rest of your life, whatever else happens.
  • Think about the ways others have given to you, right now or in the past. You may want to give back to them with a simple, heartfelt thank you, or even a letter letting them know how much they helped you.
  • Visualize helping. Every morning, take just five minutes to close your eyes and visualize yourself performing positive helping actions with some of the people you know you will encounter during the day – family, friends, coworkers, and strangers. Imagine a few specific interactions, including ones with the negative people you will inevitably meet. Use a little affirmation, such as "My words and actions heal." In psychology, this is called "priming." And there are lots of new neuroscience data to tell us why it is so effective in shaping behavior. You do what you envision, and you are what you think you are, all day long. If you do a little positive mental imaging before you day beings, you'll be more likely to respond helpfully to the world around you, especially in hard times.
  • Make it a practice to help one person every day. This is an easy and gratifying exercise that with very little practice can become a natural part of your daily routine. It is simple to keep track of. Whether you help by holding the elevator, dropping a dollar into a homeless person's hand, pitching in to help with a loved one's chore, accompanying a friend to a doctor's appointment . . . notice how this makes you feel, and write about it in your journal at the week's end.
  • Draw on your own talents in giving. We all have special strengths and talents. You may love music, art, or writing; you may be athletic or mechanical; you may love reading and sharing what you've read; you may love cooking or sewing or any of the homely arts; you may be a computer whiz or a math lover. However great or meager your talent, as long as you're passionate about it, that's what counts. Research shows that we benefit most when we help others by drawing on our natural gifts – and they benefit too. Use the talents you possess. Develop them as far and as deeply as they will go in the service of others. People tend to stick with helping others when they are doing things that they feel they are good at.
Stephen G. Post in The Hidden Gifts of Helping