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Doing something special to make someone's day almost always means making your own day better too. The time required is often short, but the effects are long lasting. You'll be inspired by the many ways iVillage women like to spread joy -- to family, friends, coworkers, even strangers.
1. Say it with flowers: "My husband and I are avid gardeners, so we always have flowers growing in the garden. I love to pick one or two for someone I know who needs cheering up. Flowers, especially from a home garden, can brighten anyone's day."
2. Nourish: "I do a lot of cooking for families who have health issues. There's an older couple in our church, and recently the husband had kidney surgery. I prepared a roast, a few trimmings and a cake, and brought it to them."
3. Create memories: "After a family occasion, I send a photo of the event to those who attended to create a lasting memory."
4. Express your love: "I often put a sticky note in my husband's lunch bag telling him I love him, or I drop a couple of little candy hearts or something special like that in the bag."
5. Speak up: "I like to say, 'I saw what you did and it was really great!' or just give a quick hug and say, 'You're really important to me.' It's the words we often forget to use that are so vital to each of us."
6. Be corny: "It's corny, but I like to leave notes where I know my kids will see them during the day. I write simple things like 'I love you' or 'Ha, ha, you're in school and I'm not.'"
7. Do something unexpected: "Doing little unexpected things for a family member, friend or neighbor is always great, but doing something for someone that would never expect it is also a special joy. One time when I was at a bookstore, I noticed that the lady who waited on me was the only one working. She was really working at being pleasant even though she was overworked. I went across to a grocery store, bought a potted plant, walked back into the bookstore, handed the flowers to the lady and said, 'I hope your day gets better.' She smiled and said, 'It just did. Thank you so much.'"
8. Bake an extra batch: "I love baking, so I will often make up a 'care' package for my neighbors, who also mostly happen to be my in-laws, and drop it off unexpectedly. For example, if I'm making the cookies my niece loves, I'll drop some off for her to enjoy."
9. Listen: "Listening to people and really hearing them is a very important way of letting them know you care. Don't just listen with your ears, listen with your heart, and try to remember some of the things they have told you. For example, if a friend tells you that a family member is having an operation in two weeks, try to remember to ask if that person is recovering okay after the operation."
10. Encourage sharing: "My kids sometimes have trouble with self-esteem or problems with kids at school. I make special treat bags for them to take to school and share. It makes everyone happy."
11. Smile: "When I see someone in a store or somewhere looking grouchy, sad or just tired, I give them a great big smile and greeting. Sometimes they'll look at me like I'm nuts, but often they perk up too!"
12. Babysit: "Every few months, I plan a 'fun day' with my four-year-old cousins to give their mom a break and strengthen my relationship with the children."
13. Do for those who can't: "I go and clean for some elderly people that I know."
14. Use snail mail: "The old-fashioned post definitely makes someone's day. To send your spouse or longtime friend (even if they live in the same city or in the same house!) a funny or sweet postcard makes an instant connection. Striking or funny words are powerful but not necessary; a simple note reverberates when held in one's hand."
15. Flatter: "I give a sincere compliment."
16. Be sappy: "I send mushy emails to my kids, who are both married and living out of town. It embarrasses them a bit, but that is what mothers are for!"
17. Heal: "I've been known to go shopping then over to a sick friend's house to make homemade chicken and dumpling soup."
18. Break convention: "I send 'thinking of you' cards when there's no 'Hallmark' reason to do so. People expect cards on birthdays, anniversaries, etc. And that's great. But I like to drop a line every now and then just for the heck of it. Sometimes I send along pictures my kids have drawn, a snapshot or a newspaper clipping -- anything that says "I was thinking of you just because I like you."
19. Give light: "I buy candles for my friends. I know it sounds silly, but I think just giving someone a 'little light' makes them (and me) a bit happier."
20. Wave: "I've been known to wave at a neighbor passing by in her car, even if I don't know her."
21. Lend a hand: "I like helping someone with heavy packages or directions."
22. Offer an unexpected treat: "I call an elderly lady from church and offer to take her shopping or out to lunch."
23. Share a story: "I think my favorite way to make someone's day is to read to them. This is something I reserve for people I don't get to connect with on a daily basis. I'll just call up a long-distance friend and after chatting, say, 'This is something you have to hear ...' and read part of a magazine article or odd news tidbits to them. If the New Yorker staff only knew how happy my friends are that I have a subscription!"
24. Babysit: "Nothing lights up a friend's face more than saying, 'I'd love to watch your kids tonight so you guys can go out.'"
25. Close the distance: "When my husband traveled, I would put a 'missing you' card in his suitcase so he would find it after he got to his destination."