happy woman
Illustration: Dan Page
I'm one of those people who just want to make everybody's day. I love humanity! Each man's joy is joy to me! Let's be honest, though: I can't spend all my time bringing bliss to others—I have work to do and bills to pay. Also, someone has to watch all six seasons of Lost on DVD, and to be blunt, I don't see you stepping up. But I digress.

My point is, I'm sure you, too, want to make other people's days, you with your six-page to-do list and your life-devouring job and that "will work for sleep" expression on your haunted little face. That's why I'm here to offer you not just seven ways to make someone else's day but seven ways to make someone else's day without getting up. You may need to dial a phone, but your torso can remain inert. That is my kind of altruism.

As you read the suggestions that follow, monitor yourself. If your mind says, Great idea! but your body says, Too much work, your body wins. Your mind will tell you it's virtuous to make someone's day in ways that make your own day stressful, but trust me—that just cancels out the overall benefit. This is simple math, people. Undertake these do-good strategies if and only if they feel exceptionally easy.

1. Feel good around other people.

Back in the '60s (and by that I mean the 1660s), a Dutch scientist named Christiaan Huygens realized that multiple pendulums mounted on the same wall always ended up swinging in perfect synchrony, even when he had set them in motion at different times. This phenomenon is called entrainment, and in my experience humans are just as likely to fall in sync as Huygens's clocks. At the very least, many neuroscientists believe that our so-called mirror neurons can foster our ability to empathize with the emotions we observe in others. One rage-aholic can fill an entire office with anger, while a truly happy person can lighten the mood for everyone around her. I once spent several hours in a room full of large, sleeping dogs, who entrained me into such peace, I now count that uneventful afternoon as one of my life's highlights.

To make someone's day, all you have to do is stay physically near her while remaining in a state of contentment, humor, compassion or calm. Try getting deeply happy around any loved one, acquaintance or stranger. Refuse to let go of your good mood. You don't have to say or do anything else. Really. It'll make your day to see how easily you can make someone else's. And before you know it, you'll be soothing entire stressed-out crowds, like the ones you find at food courts and matador conventions.

Next: 6 more ways to brighten someone's day


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