Picture the scene. You turn on the TV and there’s a hard-hitting documentary about war, or a news story about a recent disaster. Your mind starts to wander. You think back to the frivolities of your day: shopping in town, meeting friends for coffee, sharing jokes on social media. Watching people suffering, you start to feel guilty for all the things that made you happy today.
Maybe you’ve just changed the channel to avoid that Oxfam advert, or crossed the road because you’re avoiding the Big Issue seller. It’s probably the wrong thing to do, but you don't want to be confronted by guilt anymore. But now you're trying to avoid the 'reality of life' - which makes you feel even more guilty. You're in a lose-lose situation. If you ever feel guilty for being happy when you're worried you could be doing something more to help, you're not alone. Read our Happiful guide to the small steps you can take, that don't cost you very much in either time or money, which add up to something pretty special in the bigger picture.
The simple act of giving has a wealth of benefits for your mental health. While Kickstarter helps people develop products and businesses, there are a lot of social enterprise ventures and inventions that can change our world for the better. By supporting one of these projects, you can feel happy knowing that you’re contributing to the bigger picture and supporting innovation and progress in the world.
Fans of mindfulness might want to support a new product such as the Do Epic Happy 2018 Planner.
The simple act of giving has a wealth of benefits for your mental health
The creators wanted to combine the practicality of a goal planner with the benefits of mindfulness, to reduce your daily life stresses, and get you on track to a happier, healthier you. As well as helping your productivity with practical elements such as public holidays, to-do lists and calendars, it ides adult colouring pages with Mandala patterns, dream boards and daily gratitude pages. What more could you want from an organiser?
Head to kickstarter.com and search for "Happy Planner" to get on board with the project.
Feeling the pressure to give money can be a huge burden. Sometimes, when we’re asked to give money, we do so to avoid embarrassment – no one wants to be the “tight one”, do they? But, that can mean we give money out of obligation, rather than because we want to.
But, what if you could give money to a cause you actually cared about every month? And you could do it tax-free too? Payroll Giving is a way of giving money to charity, without paying tax on it. Paid through PAYE from your wages or pension, you can ask your employer to set up and run a scheme for your workplace.
Are you an employer?
Contact a Payroll Giving agency to set up a scheme. Make deductions each time you run payroll. The donation will be taken from your employees’ pay before tax, but after National Insurance.
It’s easy to feel guilty for not donating every time there’s a bucket collection outside our local supermarket. But in reality, we can’t give money to every charity. e thing is, donating doesn’t have to be a chore. And it doesn’t have to be all the time. But if there’s a cause that really resonates with you, you’ll feel better in knowing that while you can’t donate to everything, you are helping something.
It might be donating to an organisation like ActionAid: an international charity supporting the most disadvantaged women and girls in more than 45 countries. Or something closer to home, like UK-based Sane, which looks to improve and support the lives of those affected by mental illness. Visit actionaid.org.uk or sane.org.uk to donate and help them continue their amazing work.
Sites like Just Giving and GoFundMe allow you to help people all over the world with donations of whatever size you can afford
Sites like Just Giving and GoFundMe allow you to help people all over the world with donations of whatever size you can afford. These can range from memorials for loved ones, to helping grant the wishes of people in need, like Jonathan in Ramsden Bellhouse, Essex, who’s quality of life could dramatically improve with a medical assistance dog. Or there’s Ryan from Bristol who’s outgrown his current electric wheelchair, and needs a new one to go “cruising the streets of Keynsham” again. Visit gofundme.com or justgiving.com to search for a cause that connects with you.
Bookworms out there will know the joy that discovering a new story brings. While it can be hard to discard our favourite novels from our bookshelves, imagine how good you’ll feel knowing that someone else is experiencing the joy of reading your favourite book for the first time.
Plus, the money raised from selling donated books goes to a good place. Charities, such as Oxfam and British Heart Foundation will gratefully receive your donations. You can donate your books to a cause you feel connected to, and clear some room for new books on your shelf, too!
If you can’t bear to prise yourself from your favourite books (we can’t really blame you), why not join Book Aid International’s Reverse Book Club. By supporting this charity with a donation, you’ll be helping to send new, relevant books to libraries in Africa every month. e books you help send will make a lasting difference to people who really need books.
Why not put your fitness to the test and complete a sporting challenge for charity? These days you can throw yourself into virtually any sporting challenge; take a look at Sport For Charity or timeoutdoors.com for a whole array of activities from road cycling to trekking, or even kayaking! If you’re adventurous, or have caught the travel bug, these charity challenges could take you as far as China, or even Peru!
For those not feeling quite so brave, there are lots of options closer to home. Many charities now run their own fundraising sporting events, whether you fancy a night-time walk, a muddy obstacle course, or even ballroom dancing.
Visit a charity you’d like to support’s website to find out more about their local sporting fundraising events.
You may not have time to organise an event yourself, but you can support a cause by attending a peaceful protest or march. You can find out about these on sites like eventbrite.co.uk, or keep an eye on social media.But, if a protest isn’t quite what you’re a er, there are plenty of other ways to participate in raising awareness for an issue you’re passionate about. Getting creative is one way to make your voice heard, through music, art, or writing. If you want some inspiration, listen to Bruce Springsteen and Joe Grushecky's protest song against President Trump, "That's What Makes Us Great".
Sometimes a picture can say a thousand words. With the Black Lives Matter campaign, artists in America have effectively shows how equality has stagnated, with images that appear to be from the Civil Right Movement in the 1960s, except they're actually from the present day. With images able to go viral on social media, your art could reach millions of eyes. It's possible to make your voice heard without saying a word.
Nowadays, you can help people in need from the convenience of your keyboard. Take Amnesty International. Their work means you can help create change. is one requires emotional investment, not financial. It can be the simple act of sending an email or putting your name to a petition, but it all has the potential to make a real difference to someone’s life, no matter where they are in the world. You can even do some good just by sending a text message – as part of Amnesty International’s Pocket Protest campaign.
While it’s great to be concerned with world affairs, sometimes it’s the issues at home that we feel more empowered to do something about. If you’re passionate about an issue and want parliament to hear your voice, start a petition. If it gets 10,000 signatures, the government will respond, and if it gets 100,000 signatures, it will actually be considered for debate in Parliament!
We’re all aware of our burden on the Earth, and we all know the obvious things to reduce our waste and conserve energy. But, what are the less obvious ways we can help the environment?
Take littering – a divisive environmental issue. You are either part of the problem, or part of the solution. Almost £1 billion is spent by local authorities across England to clean up our communities, which could be spent much more wisely. So, get involved and clean up your local area. Whether you go solo, or recruit your friends, family, or colleagues, or even take part in some of Keep Britain Tidy's initiatives, you'll feel better for it, and the environment will thank you.
If picking up rubbish isn’t your bag, why not reduce your waste from home? Stop getting all that junk mail. Contact the Royal Mail for an opt out form to stop receiving all those leaflets, or unaddressed promotional materials that you resent having to pick up off your doormat anyway. While you’re at it, do you really need that printed bank statement, when you can view it online whenever you like? Perhaps it’s time to adjust your communication settings online.
A simple way to make a massive difference in your community is by volunteering with the elderly. According to Age UK, 200,000 older people haven't spoken to a friend or family member in the past month and 3.9 million older people see their TV as their main source of company. But the good news is that there are plenty of small actions you can make that have a huge impact on the life of an elderly person. It could be as simple as stopping to chat to a neighbour or inviting them round for a cup of tea. But if you have a bit more time, perhaps volunteer at a local retirement home to hear some of their amazing life stories. Or even just having 30 minutes spare a week means you could be a phone-befriender and check in on someone with a call. You never know what a difference that lifeline of contact could have on an elderly, isolated person.
Visit ageuk.org.uk to find out how you could get involved.
With the question of whether you should give money to a rough sleeper, most charities are of the same standpoint: it’s better not to. While your intentions might be good, there’s a chance you might be funding drugs or alcohol, or putting the person at risk of exploitation or mugging.
But, fortunately, giving doesn’t stop at money. Giving your time, to go over and speak to someone, might really brighten their day. You could buy them a hot drink or sandwich – and if they don’t take it, they don’t need it.
If you don’t feel comfortable approaching someone on your own, you can still help out. Visit streetlink.org.uk to report seeing a rough sleeper. Streetlink can refer them to suitable agencies. They’re linked with No Second Night Out, who say 60% of rough sleepers are new to the streets, and aim to make sure that anyone sleeping rough for the first time doesn’t have to do it again.
Brits have a reputation as being a nation of pet lovers. Our spirited concern to rescue and preserve the dignity of animals
is what led Britain to be the first country in the world to start a welfare charity for animals: the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (known to us now as the RSPCA).
As a nation, we’re pretty protective of our animals. So, we can be deeply affected when confronted with animal cruelty – it’s those Dogs Trust adverts that get us. So, we’d bet you’ll be glad to hear that helping out animals is a lot easier than you’d think. For instance, if you’re a dog or cat lover but can’t have one of your own, you’re in luck. Did you know that there’s actually a need for dog walkers? And for cat groomers, too? In fact, there’s a whole range of roles available with the RSPCA. You just have to factor in the travel costs to your local centre – but taking care of the animals is free!
Go to rspca.org.uk/getinvolved to help some furry friends near you.
Written by Rebecca Thair and Becky Wright