An act of kindness is a spontaneous gesture of goodwill towards someone or something – our fellow humans, the animal kingdom, and the kingdom of nature. Kind words and deeds come from a state of benevolence, generated by a core response deep within all of us. The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.” This means one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people! This year, the Random Acts of Kindness Day that typically takes place on November 3, expands to eight days, from Sunday, February 11 to Sunday, February, 2018. How can you impact yourself and the world with your random acts of kindness?
THE LOVE HORMONE
Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we’re in anxious or shy in a social situation.
“About half of participants in one study reported that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth” CHRISTINE CARTER, UC BERKELEY, GREATER GOOD SCIENCE CENTER
A 2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness in 136 countries found that people who are altruistic—in this case, people who were generous financially, such as with charitable donations—were happiest overall.
“People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.” CHRISTINE CARTER, AUTHOR, “RAISING HAPPINESS; IN PURSUIT OF JOYFUL KIDS AND HAPPIER PARENTS”
According to research from Emory University, when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up, as if you were the recipient of the good deed—not the giver. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high.”
Like most medical antidepressants, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and makes you happy!
Engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins—the brain’s natural painkiller!
Perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population!
A group of highly anxious individuals performed at least six acts of kindness a week. After one month, there was a significant increase in positive moods, relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance in socially anxious individuals.
Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly improved. Mortality is delayed, depression is reduced and well-being and good fortune are increased.
Committing acts of kindness lowers blood pressure. According to Dr. David R. Hamilton, acts of kindness create emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a “cardioprotective” hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.
THE SCIENCE OF KINDNESS
101 Easy Ideas For Random Acts Of Kindness
1. Tweet or Facebook message a genuine compliment to three people right now.
2. Bring doughnuts (or a healthy treat, like cut-up fruit) to work.
3. While you’re out, compliment a parent on how well-behaved their child is.
4. Don’t write the angry internet comment you’re thinking of writing.
5. When everyone around you is gossiping about someone, be the one to butt in with something nice.
6. Cook a meal or do a load of laundry for a friend who just had a baby or is going through a difficult time.
7. If you walk by a car with an expired parking meter, put a quarter in it.
8. Put your phone away.
9. Hang out with the person who just moved to town.
10. Offer a homeless person your leftovers bag from the restaurant.
11. Each time you get a new piece of clothing, donate an old one.
12. Don’t interrupt when someone else is speaking. (Surprisingly few people master this.)
13. Email or write an old teacher who made a difference in your life.
14. Compliment someone to their boss.
15. Leave a nice server the biggest tip you can afford.
16. Smile at someone on the street, just because.
17. Let someone into your lane. They’re probably in a rush just like you.
18. Forgive someone, and never bring up the issue again.
19. Talk to the shy person who’s sitting by themselves at a party.
20. Leave your newspaper or magazine behind for someone else to read at the coffeeshop, the doctor’s office, or on a plane.
21. Cut someone some slack.
22. Help a mother with her baby stroller.
23. Become a big brother or big sister.
24. Let the person behind you at the supermarket checkout with one or two items go ahead of you.
25. Write someone a letter. Like a real letter, on paper. And mail it!
26. Give away stuff for free on Craigslist.
27. Make a “breakup playlist” on Spotify for your friend who’s going through heartbreak.
28. Give someone a book you think they’d like.
29. Be the person who puts a tip in the tip jar at the coffeeshop. (Fewer people tip than you’d think!)
30. Bring in fun office supplies to liven up the workday for everyone.
31. When you go somewhere to get or do something, ask the people around you if you can pick up anything they need.
32. Give someone a hug.
33. If you spill creamer or sugar on the counter at Starbucks, wipe it up.
34. Call your grandparents. Call them!
35. Donate your old eyeglasses so someone else can use them.
36. When you’re throwing something away on the street, pick up any litter around you and put that in the trash too.
37. Write something nice on that person’s updates who posts on Facebook constantly. They’re probably lonely.
38. Sincerely compliment your boss, who probably doesn’t often get feedback from her reports.
39. Put sticky notes with positive slogans on the mirrors in restrooms.
40. Let them have the parking space.
41. Relay an overheard compliment.
42. Volunteer to read to kids at an after-school program.
43. Bring your partner coffee in bed tomorrow.
44. Try to make sure every person in a group conversation feels included.
45. Stop to talk to a homeless person.
46. Answer that email you’ve been avoiding.
47. Send anonymous flowers to the receptionist at work.
48. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
49. Donate or recycle your old laptop and electronics.
50. Write a nice comment on your friend’s blog.
51. Play board games with senior citizens at a nursing home. Sixty percent of them will never have a visitor during their stay.
52. Give someone a tissue who’s crying in the public, and offer to talk about it, but only if they want to.
53. Listen intently.
54. Babysit for a single mom for free.
55. Adopt a rescue pet.
56. Compliment someone in front of others.
57. Hold the elevator.
58. IM or email that person you’re afraid to talk to because you don’t want to “bother them.” They’re probably thinking the same thing about others!
59. Remind yourself that everyone is fighting their own struggles.
60. Leave some extra quarters in the laundry room.
61. Write your partner a list of things you love about them.
62. Put together a small herb garden for someone.
64. Say thank you to a janitor.
65. Talk to someone at work whom you have’t talked to before.
66. Frame your friend’s favorite lyric or quote and give it to them with a nice note.
67. Send dessert to another table.
68. Text someone just to say good morning or good night.
69. Help your elderly neighbour take out the trash or mow their lawn.
70. Give up your seat to someone (anyone!) on the bus or subway.
71. Tell your siblings how much you appreciate them.
72. Bring a security guard a hot cup of coffee.
73. Plant a tree.
74. Purchase some extra dog or cat food and drop it off at an animal shelter.
75. If you’re a good photographer, take photos of your friends and make them into a digital album.
76. Buy and donate toiletries to a youth centre.
77. Smile when you feel like scowling.
78. Wash someone’s car.
79. Dog or catsit for free.
80. Keep an extra umbrella at work and let someone borrow it on their way home if there’s a sudden downpour.
81. Make two lunches and give one away.
82. Reduce air pollution by carpooling.
83. Say yes at the store when the cashier asks if you want to donate $1 to whichever cause.
84. Be encouraging!
85. Help someone struggling with heavy bags.
86. Donate your collection of change to charity.
87. Give your friend a hug, touch their arm, or pat them on the back. So many of us are starved for human touch!
88. Buy lemonade from a kid’s lemonade stand.
89. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt.
90. Be kind to the customer service rep on the phone. It’s not their fault.
91. Do the dishes even if it’s your roommate’s turn.
92. If you find yourself at Starbucks (or McDonald’s, or…) pick up the tab for the person in line behind you.
93. Give someone the rest of your pack of gum.
94. Be patient.
95. Clean someone’s windshield.
96. Every night before you go to bed, think of three things you’re grateful for.
97. Make plans with that person you’ve been putting off seeing.
98. Call your mom or your dad.
99. Offer to return a shopping cart to the store for someone loading groceries in their car.
100. Have a clean-up party on the beach or at a park.
101. When you hear that negative, discouraging voice in your head, remember to leave yourself alone — you deserve kindness too!