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.
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. These 10 random acts of kindness could change someone’s life right now.
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. If you are feeling really brave, add one of these 52 little compliments guaranteed to brighten anyone’s day.
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. If you don’t have a Giving Machine in your area or you’re short on money, try one of these 50 acts of kindness that don’t cost a cent.
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 20 everyday tiny changes also go a long way to helping out the environment.
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. Parents will want to know these 50 tiny but powerful ways to encourage your kids every day.
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. That’s all it took to for this 17-year-old to start—today she helps feed over 50,000 people a year.
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. You don’t have to be a trained therapist to be a good listener.
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. Find out the answers to all the political questions you’ve been too embarrassed to ask.
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. These are the 50 books everyone should read before they turn 50.
Pay for the person behind you in line
The next time you pull up to the drive-through window at your favorite 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. Don’t miss these 21 real stories of life-changing acts of kindness.
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 labor practices. Use these tips to find hidden gems as you’re perusing the racks.
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. And make sure you avoid these 15 items thrift stores don’t want you to donate.
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. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it; start with these 12 proven ways to forgive, even when it’s hard.
Host a neighborhood potluck
Worldwide peace starts in neighborhoods just like yours, with people creating a culture of inclusivity. Start a tradition of holding a neighborhood 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. Knowing these 13 potluck etiquette rules will help you make yours a success.
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! These are the silent signs of bullying every parent should know.
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. Not feeling like a hike? Simply being in nature—a practice called “forest bathing” in Japan—has proven mental and physical benefits.
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 15 ordinary people who changed the course of history.
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. Start with these best children’s books ever written.
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. Get inspired with these best self-care gifts.
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. Read on for 35 simple acts of kindness you can do in two minutes or less.