Most of us come to a point in our lives, whether it be when we reach retirement and have more free time, have children or maybe reach middle age, when we realise we are able to do more to help others.
Going through life only doing what is best for ourselves might make sense and even be necessary to a certain extent when we're young and struggling to make it in our career, but to live a fulfilling life surely we need to give back when we can?
If you have decided you want to do more for others but don't know where to start don't let this defeat you before you have even begun! Here are some ideas to get you started...
They say charity begins at home, so think about your family members and really ask yourself whether you are doing all you can for them. Do you have an elderly mother/grandmother/aunt that that you don't call and visit as often as you could? Maybe your niece has a new baby and you could help by taking her older children to school a couple of times a week?
There might be ways you could help your loved ones that you haven't thought about; maybe your elderly relative lives a long way away so you can't help with the food shop when they struggle, but how about suggesting you do an online shop for them and get it delivered to their door. Put yourself in their position and think about how a little effort from you could help others at a difficult point in their lives.
Giving back to our community
Getting involved in your local community is a great way to get to know those around you better, and to really make a difference. You can start by making small differences – for instance feeding the birds in your garden during difficult winter months, or making a bigger meal for your family and taking a portion round to the elderly man living on his own next door.
On a larger scale, you could think about volunteering in a local soup kitchen, getting involved in the local government or on the local school's board. If you are an animal lover you could think about volunteering in your nearest rescue centre, or offering to walk the dogs that are staying there.
You could organise events or offer to help out with ones that run currently; for instance village fetes or bake sales. There are so many different ways you could help your local community, you just need to think about what interests or concerns you most and take it from there.
Maybe you feel that your current job is unfulfilling and want a change of scene, or you are retired and want a new challenge. If you love children and have a spare bedroom in your house, why not consider fostering?
There is a shortage of foster carers in most countries around the world and this could be due in part to the false perceptions many people believe about the requirements of fostering. If you are single, renting your home, gay or over 60 you can be a great foster carer and shouldn't let factors like these hold you back from applying.
Fostering gives you the opportunity to show a child that may never have felt what it is to be nurtured, cared for and supported in life how a family should be, and help instil these values in them for the future. Fostering is an extremely valuable path in life, and there are few more wonderful things you can do than help turn a child's life around.
If you like the idea of fostering but full-time fostering isn't for you there are other options you could explore. Respite foster care helps out those who foster full time have a weekend break to recharge their batteries. Emergency foster care means caring for a child at short notice for a short period whilst a long term carer is found.
Donating to charity is a great way to help those less fortunate, but you can also get involved and volunteer; whether it is a local or national charity you want to help, there are usually options for you to get involved.
You could hold fundraising events, participate in sponsored runs or cycles, or take part in a fun money raiser like 'Movember' (providing you are able to grow facial hair, of course!) Try visiting the website of a charity you have a particular interest in and see what suggestions they have. Usually there are information packs available to get you started.
There are all sorts of ways you can begin making changes in your own life to help those around you, you just need to open your eyes to what these might be. Helping others in a big or small way will make your own life happier and more fulfilled and you won't look back!
Emily Bradbury is writing for The FCA, an agency for fostering in the UK as well as world-wide and winners of awards for diversity and equality in the work place.