People hold "free hugs" signs in Croatia. People hold "free hugs" signs in Croatia. Making someone else smile doesn't cost a thing. (Photo: Xavier Tredjeu / Flickr)

7 ways to make someone else happy today

Being kind to others seems obvious, but it's also good for your health.

Think about the last good deed you performed. Was it helping an elderly woman cross the street? "Paying it forward" at the Starbucks drive-thru? Giving up your seat to a new mom on the subway?

How often are you the giver of those good deeds? It's not just the right thing to do, but it's also the healthy thing to do, as multiple studies suggest. Science – not just your mother – has determined that being nicer will make you a happier, healthier person as a whole.

"If you are a recipient of a good deed, you may have momentary happiness, but your long-term happiness is higher if you are the giver," Duke University professor Dan Ariely told the Chicago Tribune.

Ariely, an Israeli-American who has written several books about how we make decisions, says it's not just what we give, but how, that determines our level of long-term happiness. "If you give [to charity] directly from a paycheck, we don't pay attention to it," Ariely said. "It's the way we give and how we give that makes us happy. The key is to give deliberately and thoughtfully, so that other people benefit from it."

So the question is, how? How do we become nicer, more generous, more thoughtful people, while making ourselves happier too? Here are our suggestions – seven of them, to be precise.


1. Send a happy song to someone you love

Can music change someone's mood? We know it can inspire Alzheimer's patients to recall memories their caregivers thought were long lost to the disease. We know it can help people recover faster from strenuous exercise. We know it can be paired perfectly with your favorite beer. So next time you hear a song that turns your day around, imagine that someone you love might feel the same way, and send it to them!


2. Take a good friend on a short, beautiful nature walk

Nahal Amud, Upper Galilee Nahal Amud has some of the best scenery in the Upper Galilee region (Photo: leospek/Shutterstock)

Nature can work wonders for the soul – and for friendship, too. Next time you're wondering what to do on a clear day, consider a short-yet-sweet day hike, where you don't have to put in a lot of planning or time, but the rewards are plentiful – freeing yourselves of life's distractions, finding peace and appreciation of nature, and discovering scenery you can't find anywhere else.


3. Make people smile – just because

After losing both his parents within the past two years, 6-year-old Jaden Hayes' world got very dark. Being 6, Jaden didn't know what to do with all this grief. But then, he had an idea.

He asked his aunt Barbara to buy a bunch of small toys. Then he went to downtown Savannah, Georgia, near where he lives, and looked for people who weren't smiling. The response was more than he bargained for – along with brightening so many strangers' lives, Jaden's smile campaign caught the attention of several national and international news outlets, which propelled the story to viral status. People around the world who saw Jaden's story are donating toys for him to give out, hoping it'll help him reach his goal of making 33,000 people smile.


4. Start a flash mob – at a hospital

If you've ever been in a hospital waiting room, you know that these can be the most somber spots in the building. Everyone there could use a laugh – and it might take a little showmanship to get there.

These creative people decided to turn the hospital waiting room into a performance venue, launching into a surprise song-and-dance routine known as a flash mob. Could you be the next flash mob organizer? Maybe – but it might be wise to let the hospital administration in on your plans first.


5. Make welcome-to-the-neighborhood cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes with Mocha Cream and Chocolate GanacheThis recipe takes a simple chocolate cupcake up a few culinary notches with a mocha cream topping and a drizzle of chocolate ganache. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

You saw the U-Haul vans. You've seen the new faces. But you haven't personally met the new neighbors across the street – and it's been five weeks since they moved in. Why is that? You're busy, but not so busy that you can't take a few minutes out of your day to introduce yourself, find out what you might have in common, and give them something that will sweeten their day. These chocolate cupcakes with mocha cream and chocolate ganache prepared by Israeli Kitchen blogger Sarah Berkowitz may look decadent and wholeheartedly gourmet, but they're surprisingly easy to make. A homemade gift to celebrate a new home – there's no better embodiment of generosity.


6. Give someone this alarm clock

It may be a novelty gift, but who could possibly turn down an alarm clock that requires you to smile? It's basically guaranteed to make your day better, even in a small way. And if you use it every day, think about it: that's a life of smiles!


7. Pay it forward

drive-thru fast foodHaven't done your random act of kindness yet today? Consider paying it forward at the drive-thru. (Photo: Ministr-84/Shutterstock)

You don't go to the Starbucks drive-thru because you're feeling generous. You do it because you're feeling tired, cranky, lethargic – and you know that venti no-whip two-pump extra-shot latte is the cure. But at one of these ubiquitous coffee shops in St. Petersburg, Florida, last year, a chain of "paying it forward" – that is, one person pays for the drink for the person behind them, that person follows suit, and so on – lasted 11 hours, with a total of 378 people paying it forward. If you were one of those 378 people, we're betting your coffee tasted just a little better that day.

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7 ways to make someone else happy today
Being kind to others seems obvious, but it's also good for your health, and could make you a happier person in general.