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Sometimes someone we know is going through tough times. Letting
them know that someone is there for them can make all the
difference and help them get through. Here are some ideas to
Connecting with people is vital for happiness and supporting others is critical for creating happy communities, yet when we are down or experiencing a rough patch in life (which we all do from time to time) it is easy to feel alone. And it can be hard to ask for support and help even from people we know well.
So when we can see that a friend, family member or someone we know in our community is having a hard time, reaching out to help them, even in a small way, can have an impact in helping them see light at the end of the tunnel.
Compassion when others are in distress is at the heart of happiness and flourishing communities and societies. It is a basic human emotion defined as recognising another person's suffering and wanting to take action to stop or reduce it.  As a fundamental part of human nature compassionate acts need no expectation of reward. But being there for others means that they are more likely to be there for us when we need help. Doing things for others also generates positive emotions for the giver as well as the receiver.
1. Tune into to how they're feeling
Knowing what to do to help when a friend need's support starts with tuning into them and their situation and matching that with what you are able to do. It sounds more complex than it is. Compassion is a natural response, but it is best done with a little sensitivity. If you think of something and you aren't sure how well it will be received, why tell them what you'd like to do for them and ask if it would be helpful? Remember it doesn't have to be a big thing, small gestures can be just as valuable.
2. Reach out to help them
If your friend is really struggling to cope, they may need some professional support. For example if they're feeling very down over a problem and going round in circles or on a downward spiral, but not feeling able to take any action to deal with the issue.
While friends and family can be a great comfort and a good shoulder to cry on, sometimes professional expertise is needed to get to the real root cause and help the person to navigate a way through. It may be that they don't know how or that there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed before they can move on.
This is tricky as however much we feel someone would benefit from professional help, they need to be willing to reach out and accept it. So it may just mean making sure that they know where to find professional help, if and when they are ready. A good place for them to start is with their doctor or one of the organisations listed in the resources below.
In a few cases it may be that the issue is potentially very serious or even life threatening, in which case urgent help will be needed. Again getting them to contact their doctor (and even going with them if they need support) and asking for an appointment straight away, or for emergency help, calling the Samaritans or 999.
See our Unhappy? section for more information.
 Valliant, G. (2008).Spiritual Evolution: How we are wired for faith, hope and love. NY: Broadway Books
 Goetz, J.L., Keltner, D. & Simon-Thomas, E. (2010). Compassion: An evolutionary analysis and empirical review.Psychological Bulletin, 136, 351-374.
Charity providing help for people who experience all types of mental distress
NHS Live Well
Comprehensive website with lots of information to make choices about your health
Provides confidential non-judgemental emotional support, 24 hours a day
It's good to talk
Helps people find out more about counselling and psychotherapy
Promoting health, respect and justice in couple and family relationships
B-eat: Beating Eating Disorders
Leading charity for people with eating disorders and their families
Counselling service for children and young people
Mental Health First Aid (England)
Learn about the causes, symptoms and treatments of common mental health problems
Mental Health First Aid (Scotland)
Mental Health First Aid (Wales)
Connect with people
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