I recently had a really garbage couple of weeks at work that left me feeling lonely and discouraged. To get back in fighting shape, I did three things:

1. Call my mom. (I unashamedly start these conversations by telling her that I need someone to be nice to and / or feel sorry for me. I know she’ll always do this, but also not let me dwell too long.) 
2. Buy myself a flower. (A single stem in a water glass in my office was a shot to the heart of happy – not a permanent fix, but an immediate lift.) 
3. Make plans to do something good for someone else. 

This last one is a no-fail lesson my mom taught me when I was little. It was an on-purpose lesson – I still learn from her by osmosis all the time, but this was one she said out loud – when you’re sad, the fastest way to feel better is to do something nice for someone else. “Feeling sad” seems increasingly like a side effect of 2017, so I’m going to take this opportunity to wrap my arms around this goal.

I live in San Francisco, and Glide Memorial Church is an institution. If you ever have a chance to hear their choir, take it – they’re amazing. The church also serves meals to those in need every day, and they welcome volunteers to with no training and very little advance notice – I signed up online and showed up a few days later. 

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The breakfast shift is two hours, over by 9 am, and about a 20 minute walk from my office. At that first shift, I was assigned to stand at the end of line and hand guests their trays with a smile and a welcoming word. I’m pretty sure the assignments are nearly random, but it was exactly what I needed. All the research is right – if you spend two hours smiling and thanking strangers, you will feel happy and grateful before you’re through.