20 Ways You Can Make the World a More Peaceful Place

Overwhelmed by scary news stories? Here's how to start feeling calmer and build a more peaceful world right now.

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Broken people paper chain with scissors on white background - Broken relationships concept

The world is not a peaceful place

Between non-stop news coverage of wars around the world to petty fights on your Facebook feed about the best dog food, peace can feel in short supply these days. Yet it feels more important than ever. In a 2019 survey of peace perceptions, researchers found that the majority of respondents were desperate to find a long-term solution to the increasing violence in the world, including conflict prevention or “peacebuilding.” But if that feels overwhelming, you’re not alone. So here are 20 ways—big and small—you can increase peace, starting right now.

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Closeup face of young happy woman enjoy winter, wearing scarf and woolen cap. Smiling black girl looking away outdoor. Carefree african american woman with knitted hat and woolen scarf outdoor.

Smile at strangers

When you make brief eye contact with a stranger on the bus, in the store, or at the gym, your instinct may be to automatically look away. Instead, try giving them a warm smile. It’s a bigger act than you think—it isn’t just a smile, it’s recognizing and appreciating someone else’s humanity and sometimes feeling seen is all it takes to make someone’s day.

Read more about what your body language reveals about you.

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Baby goat portrait against wood wall

Buy a stranger a goat at a Giving Machine

Similar to vending machines, except instead of candy bars you can purchase anything from a metro card for a person in your city to a piglet for a needy family in another country at a Giving Machine. It doesn’t take any more time than a regular vending machine but the good feelings and peace you buy will last way longer than any sugar rush.

These random acts of kindness will make you proud to be Canadian!

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woman hand picking up garbage plastic for cleaning at park

Pick up trash

Taking a moment or two to pick up an empty bottle or some plastic bags and throw them in a garbage can may not seem like much but think how much cleaner and more peaceful feeling our public spaces would be if everyone took this approach? We know, you didn’t make the mess, which is why it’s so meaningful when you pick it up.

These tiny everyday changes go a long way to helping the environment.

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Teach a teen to paint

Teenagers are often seen as instigators, not peacemakers, but many are still very much children at heart and would welcome learning a cool new trick or skill from someone they admire. Whether it’s a kickflip on a skateboard or writing a basic computer program or folding an origami crane, take some time to teach it to someone else. Don’t have a teen of your own? Sign up to volunteer as a Big Brother or Big Sister or simply reach out through your local library or church.

Here are some inspiring ideas for simple acts of kindness you can do in under two minutes.

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Donate money or food to a person who needs it

People tend to overthink helping the homeless or others in obvious need: Will they spend it on drugs? Are they scam artists? Are they mentally ill? Why isn’t their family helping them? Yet when it comes to promoting peace and love, does the answer of why they’re in need really matter? Share a dollar or a granola bar or whatever you have with an open heart.

Get inspired by these good news stories from around the world.

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Couple of young men talking on the stairs of an office

Listen to a friend

Feelings left alone can fester, causing angry outbursts and pain for everyone involved. Help a loved one deal with their complicated emotions by offering a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on—often times that’s all they really need.

Consider these expert tips and learn how to be a better listener.

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An elderly African American man holds his “I voted” sticker after he cast his ballot in Washington, DC.
Eileen Salazar/Shutterstock

Vote in big and small elections

Voting in local and national elections is a powerful way to make your voice heard and to support policies and politicians who promote peace in your own country and around the world. And don’t just vote in the “big” ones, like a presidential election—making sure you’re informed and active in local elections is an easy way to effect change in the place where it will impact you the most.

Start your week off on a good note with these things you should always do on a Monday.

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Young man reading a book

Read a book on peace

The shelves are filled with books about war, conflict, and strife, so why not try a change of pace by reading something of the opposite genre, like The Art of Peace, by John Gittings. Other great options of books that will make you think and give you ideas on how to enact peace include A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, or The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

Don’t miss these surprising benefits of reading.

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Peoples feet as they wait in line
Collin Quinn Lomax/Shutterstock

Pay for the person behind you in line

The next time you pull up to the drive-through window at your favourite coffee shop or fast food joint, consider offering to pay for the order behind you. This anonymous act of service is a powerful reminder of the good in humanity and that strangers are kind more than they are scary.

Check out these random acts of kindness for every month of the year.

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People stacking hands together in the park

Get inspired by others

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and, in this case, also a public service. Being inspired by the many ways others create peace in the world is one of the best ways to get ideas of your own.

We’ve rounded up the most inspirational quotes from the Dalai Lama.

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Young woman is browsing a rail of clothes at mall store.

Shop at thrift stores

Too many of our cheap clothes and household goods are made in sweatshops, perpetuating a cycle of violence and poverty. So instead of heading to the mall or a cheap online store, get your next outfit or set of dishes from a local thrift store or charity shop. You’ll be giving back to your community and helping reduce the dependence on cruel labour practices.

Here’s why cold weather is actually good for you.

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Clothing hanging on a clothing rack in a shop or home closet.

Clean out your closet for charity

While you’re at that thrift store, you might as well donate a bag of clothes or other gently used items. Not all thrift stores are created equally however so do some research and donate to one that has a proven record of charitable donations and works.

Don’t miss the stories of these acts of kindness in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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hold hands

Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it

Make today the day you let an old grudge go. Forgiveness is the balm that heals deep wounds but the trick is that you have to offer it freely. Whether or not they deserve it or even want it, it will bring peace to your heart to give it to them.

Learn these 10 tips for managing your stress.

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Group of diverse friends enjoying summer party together

Host a neighbourhood potluck

Worldwide peace starts in neighbourhoods just like yours, with people creating a culture of inclusivity. Start a tradition of holding a neighbourhood potluck and be sure to invite not just your friends but everyone, regardless of culture, nationality, race, or economic status. Encourage people to bring a dish with family or cultural significance and share what it means to them.

Make gratitude a habit and learn how to be more thankful everyday.

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Girl wearing black hoodie bullying girl at schoolyard
Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

Stand up for someone else

It’s all too easy to stand back when someone else is being teased, gossiped about, made fun of, or even threatened but for true peace to exist, we need to stop attacking others. Often it just takes a few calming words or a change of subject to redirect people to a kinder topic of conversation or activity. This includes both real-life interactions and online!

Find out how to stop bullying in the workplace.

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Beautiful autumn forest mountain path at sunset

Take a hike

There’s something so peaceful and soothing about being outside, in nature. Not only will your soul feel calmer and your mind quieter but you’ll have an increased appreciation for the Earth—and people who love the Earth will take better care of it.

Discover the confidence lessons you can learn at any age.

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clipboard and pencil on wooden desk

Start a petition

Have a brilliant idea (or are a fan of someone else’s idea)? Call your legislators and encourage them to champion it. See something you hate? Start a petition and take it to the people in charge of changing the laws. If you can see a way to make your world a better, more peaceful place, don’t be afraid to take political action.

You may be just one person, but it only takes one to spark big changes—like these moments that changed women’s history forever.

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Close view of Stack of children's books on a white background

Donate books to children

Children only learn what they are taught and the more you can expose young minds to beautiful and creative ideas through books, the more adults you’ll have in the future who are motivated to create beautiful things and look for creative solutions. Unfortunately, too many children are starved for age-appropriate and fun reading material. Ask a local teacher if you can buy some books to donate to their classroom or donate to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library which delivers books to children around the world.

Beyond a mood lift, these are the surprising health benefits of laughter.

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muslim woman fix and make up her self looking at the mirror
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Love yourself, honestly

People who learn to love themselves, warts and all, are often more accepting of other peoples’ flaws. The point isn’t to become a narcissist but rather to give yourself a break and take care of your own health, mentally and physically. This way you’re better equipped to help others.

Here’s how to stop dreading your next milestone birthday.

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Young asian man sitting on the floor and meditating
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Pray or meditate for peace

Sitting quietly and praying or meditating on ways to be a more peaceful person may not feel like you’re doing much but bringing peace to the forefront of your mind can be incredibly powerful. You’ll be surprised at how many little ways you’ll be inspired in your everyday life to make the world a kinder, happier, and more peaceful place.

Next, these are the feel-good movies on Netflix Canada that will lift your spirits.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest