A quick trick to boost your empathy for others starts with saying thanks.

A video from YouTuber Anna Akana got me thinking a bit about empathy.

Empathy is one of the most important human values a person can possess — that's even backed by science.

Seriously, thank humanity's collective ability to put ourselves in others' shoes for the fact that our everyday lives (hopefully) don't resemble a YouTube comment thread gone bad.

Studies have shown that people who have high social competency (empathy) scores as children turn out to lead more successful adult lives. In August, I wrote about the effect stress has on our ability to empathize with others.


"I feel your pain." — Cartoon cis dudes shown here. GIF from Chris O'Hara/Vimeo.

But in all this talk about empathy, we tend to gloss over how we can get better at being empathetic in our daily lives. Let's fix that.

One way to up your ability to empathize with others is to take stock of what's happening in your life.

It's really easy to focus on the negative aspects of life and overlook the good. Of course, life's negatives are totally legitimate, and I'm not at all suggesting anyone erase that by appealing to worse problems (i.e., "What are you complaining about? So many others have it so much worse!") because really, 1) how has that ever helped? and 2) it's not a competition.

What I'm suggesting is that you take stock of the good and the bad. Go ahead, give it a try. It might look something like this (these are just examples):

Now, does the good stuff in the right column cancel out the left? Of course not. This is just meant to help you take stock of the complexities of life.

Speaking as someone who lives with sometimes severe bouts of depression and anxiety, this is one of the few "tricks" that's helped stop me from spiraling into a really dark place.

How does this help build empathy? It helps us grasp how our circumstances may differ from someone else's.

A great video from YouTube personality Anna Akana breaks this down in a really fun, creative way. Just as I did in the chart above, Anna goes through some of the positive factors that exist in her life. Most importantly, she gives focus to the positives that simply exist as "luck of the draw" like where she was born and what kind of family she was born into.

Those factors, sometimes referred to as "privileges," help shape the rest of her life — both the positives and negatives.

GIFs via Anna Akana/YouTube.

Once you understand and acknowledge how your life is affected by privilege, you can reverse engineer your way into strangers' shoes.

For a long time, I failed to appreciate the privileges I have, some as simple as being born in the U.S. as opposed to a war-torn country like Syria. It actually wasn't until the early 2000s when I spent time thinking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that I even considered I had in any way benefited from being born a U.S. citizen.

Had I been born in Syria, Afghanistan, or Iraq, or heck, even somewhere not in the midst of an ongoing conflict like Ireland or Japan, my life would certainly be significantly different. I have pure, unearned luck to thank for that. So in knowing that, and in being thankful for that, I can see where my empathy is lacking, and fix it.

GIFs from Anna Akana/YouTube.

This is why when someone says something like "Oh, we're all just people" or "I don't see color" in response to someone else pointing out sexism or racism, for example, they're kind of missing the point of being empathetic. The fact is that we're not all afforded the same opportunities, and sometimes it really does come down to things like race, gender, or sexual orientation — all beyond our control.

In order to live in a more peaceful world, we need to acknowledge how we're different from one another, so that we can have empathy for one another. And once you've acknowledged these differences, you can use that knowledge for good to help combat discrimination.

Take time to make that list of things in life that have shaped you and that you're truly thankful for. You'll be a better person for it.

For me, that includes being thankful for having a loving family, a middle-class upbringing, never having had to worry about being discriminated against because of the color of my skin, a job I truly enjoy, the good fortune to have been able to afford college, and so much more.

GIF from Anna Akana/YouTube.

I understand that these factors aren't universal. I understand that some of these — like not having to worry about racism, for instance — have led to my life being a bit different than that of a woman of color. Acknowledging these differences is the first step to becoming a more empathetic person.

You can check out Anna's full video below. Best of luck in your quest to becoming a more empathetic human being!

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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