Navel-gazing is always a danger at this time of year – and not just to admire the results of a two-week assault on the fridge. Indoctrinated by “new year, new you” messaging, we fixate on self-optimisation: one hand dredging the Celebrations tub and the other searching online for “hot yoga near me” or “should I read Ulysses?”
But there is another way to be better: by doing something kind. This doesn’t mean giving money (welcome though that always is), it’s about giving your time, empathy, support and thought – finding ways to help the people around you.
To make this list of suggestions, I explored acts of kindness given and received, acutely needed and fondly remembered, with Guardian readers, charities, friends and family, marvelling at how much quietly industrious kindness goes on around us. I hope there is something for everyone: some require commitment; others need nothing more than the ability to boil a kettle. But what all these acts have in common is that they will make you feel good
Let's summarize some of those acts below:
1. Give blood
Each donation can save up to three lives, and you get free biscuits. If you can't get an appointment immediately, don't worry: your donation will be vital whenever it's given.
2. Walk a dog
The Cinnamon Trust provides support for elderly and terminally ill people who need urgent help walking their pets so they can keep them.
3. Repair something
Repair cafes are booming and if you are handy with a sewing needle, bikes, carpentry, electricals or computers, why not start one?
4. Help prisoners with reading
The Shannon Trust helps people in UK prisons who struggle with reading to help one another. Volunteers are needed in central and eastern England.
5. Be a Sense virtual buddy
Sense organizes volunteers to phone or video call disabled people to fight isolation and loneliness.
6. Volunteer in a shelter
Francesca helps out at Hackney winter night shelter in east London. She says the support the guests get is brilliant, and the community of volunteers do a lot of fundraising.
7. Foster an animal
Paula fostered cats for several years, building trust and gently playing with them. She gets photos of the cats in their new homes.
8. Be a professional mentor
Help out people new to your job or wanting to get started. There are organizations that can match you up.
9. Use your car for good
Assuage your climate guilt by delivering meals on wheels, driving people to hospital appointments, or dropping off donations for the hygiene charity Beauty Banks.
10. Target your support for food banks
The Trussell Trust says non-perishable foods, toiletries, laundry and washing-up stuff, baby supplies, sanitary towels, and tampons are always welcome. You can also donate time as well as goods.