Simple, Underrated Ways to Make the World a More Wonderful Place

I know someone who is depressed, and you can tell from what they talk about that they think they offer no value to the world. I always want to share: when you walk down the street, you help make your neighbourhood safer; when you return the grocery cart, you help protect important social norms; when you use public transit, you help fund it—see, you actively help make the world a better place! Of course, I never say that, because that isn’t what this person wants to hear, but I think it’s underrated how much good people do by simple actions.

While everyone knows it’s great to return the shopping cart, donate to charity, and generally be a good person, I’ve been thinking about some small, costless actions that, despite people knowing they are good, seem to me to be significantly underrated for how easy they are to do and how much positive impact they bring.

  • Introduce people who don’t know each other, but whom you think would benefit from getting to know each other (either socially or professionally).
  • Raise someone’s aspirations or provide compliments to help them recognize some of their stronger, unique attributes. Generally, let people know about the great things they are doing as a form of encouragement.
  • Leave reviews for things you consume, or summarize and share things you learn or create, to help generate useful information for others.
  • Host an event or gathering to give others a much-needed social opportunity and/or a chance to meet more friends.
  • Help strengthen or build a community that might not otherwise exist.
  • Be more open about yourself and your quirks, especially online, as a way to help others feel more comfortable sharing about themselves.

Given how important the commons are, and how strong the effects of social contagion are, it’s also likely quite underrated how valuable it is to engage in prosocial actions, intervene to try to minimize conduct that harms the commons by others (ie to ask nicely for the person on the busy subway to remove their backpack), but this is too general for me to have any specific recommendations.