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Sharing's the new caring

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There is an increasing amount of evidence which suggests that helping others can lower stress, boost self-esteem and increase happiness levels. Lisa Merrick-Lawless, Stylist's therapist and founder of Headspace, divulges her best tips for giving back.

1. DAILY RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS

Rather than taking on a big project, start with some little things that are easy to integrate into your daily life, such as letting someone in the queue in front of you or smiling at someone who looks like they are having a tough day. Stand up on the tube or bus and let someone else sit down or buy the Big Issue. Maybe even do something closer to home like phoning a relative or being kinder to your family.

2. CHOOSE SOMETHING MEANINGFUL TO YOU

When you want to take it further and donate to a charitable cause, pick something that is meaningful to you as this will help you get started. This could be a charity that works with children or the elderly, and it could be in the UK or overseas. Alternatively, it could be in a specific medical field that is close to your heart such as cancer, diabetes or HIV.

3. WORK OUT WHAT YOU HAVE TO GIVE

Not everybody has the time or money to commit to a bigger cause but it’s likely that if you don’t have one, you’ll have the other. Consider what you can give with our suggestions below...

TIME: If you are not working full time or have lots of time available at the weekends, or maybe you are a teacher, student or freelancer with specific chunks of time off in the year, giving your time can be really valuable. Once you have chosen a project (and this can be anything from a local soup kitchen to scaling a mountain for charity) look at the time you have available and give generously, remember not only will this benefit others but also boost your happiness.

MONEY: If you are short of time but have money then give this. If you have lots of money then give lots… if you only have little then this can make a huge difference too. Pick something that you can give up such as that take away coffee that costs you about £15 a week and instead donate this to charity. Most of us can afford something, we always find the money to pay for the things we want in life. Make this something you want and it will pay dividends.

SKILLS: All of us have something to give in this area. Think about what you do in your day job and also what your hobbies are and any other skills you may have like sport or language. It could be that you could help a local charity develop their marketing campaign or that you have contacts in PR and could help with fund raising. Whatever you do whether it is hairdressing or painting, accounting or law, fashion or design all of these are useful to someone who doesn’t have this skill set.

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