I was raised on the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Chances are you were too. But did you know that doing good for others is also good for you?
Studies have shown that being kind to others and doing good deeds on a regular basis can help reduce anxiety, increase personal happiness, and even promote heart health and longevity.
Wait…the antidote to anxiety is a random act of kindness?
The Case for Kindness
Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that when people with high levels of anxiety did something kind for someone else at least six times a week, they showed significant increases in positive moods and relationship satisfaction, and a decrease in social avoidance.
Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, who has studies happiness for 20 years says, “People who engage in kind acts become happier over time. When you are kind to others, you feel good as a person – more moral, optimistic, and positive.”
Makes sense, right?
I mean, you don’t have to be a university researcher to figure out that making other people happy makes you happy too. (Didn’t somebody write a song about that?) Still, I like knowing that science backs up my hunches.
But I was surprised to learn that performing acts of kindness can actually have a positive impact on my physical well-being.
It Does the Body Good
Dr. David Hamilton, Phd in organic chemistry, who has written numerous books and articles on the physical and emotional benefits of kindness, says that engaging in acts of kindness causes our bodies to release of the hormone oxytocin as well as nitric oxide, which reduce blood pressure and, in turn, help protect our heart.
Pretty neat, huh?
I would have said that engaging in acts of kindness gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling but giving me a release of cardio-protective hormones sounds way cooler, doesn’t it?
And get this! Studies have suggested that being kind and compassionate to others may actually increase longevity. Why? Because oxytocin has been shown to reduce levels of inflammation and free radicals in the cardiovascular system, slowing aging at the source.
All of this is really good news but, for my money, the best reason to engage in random acts of kindness goes back to my warm fuzzies theory.
Bottom line: doing some kind for somebody else feels really, really good, both to you and the recipient of your kindness – especially if they aren’t expecting it!
Here are 30 random acts of kindness ideas that you can start using right away.
Random Acts of Kindness Ideas, Starting in Your Community
Shovel the walk, rake the leaves, or spend an hour doing yard work for an ill or elderly neighbor. Leave a little time for conversation. A listening ear can be the greatest gift of all.
Double the recipe of whatever you’re making for dinner and bring a hot meal to a busy working family.
Make a big batch of cookies, fill gift bags with six cookies and note saying they came from you, and deliver treats to each house on your street or apartment on your floor.
Love crafting? Plan an easy DIY project and invite your neighbors over for a fun and casual craft workshop. Great activity for the neighborhood kids, too!
Next time you’re in the parking lot at the grocery story, collect as many abandoned shopping carts as you can find and return them to the front of the store or cart coral.
Before your next walk, stuff an empty plastic grocery sack in your coat pocket. Use it to collect and dispose of any trash you see along your route.
When you travel, save up the extra soap, shampoo, and toiletries from hotel rooms and donate them to a local homeless or domestic violence shelter.
Want to spread a little Christmas cheer to a stranger? Help pay off someone’s layaway bill in time for the holidays. (If you’re not sure how this works, this great post from the Rants From Mommyland blog explains it).
Kindness to Family Members
Is there a particular chore someone in your family dislikes? Surprise them by doing it for them.
Run errands for a family member who is overwhelmed by a deadline at work.
Volunteer to babysit so a mother of preschoolers can go to the grocery store alone.
Help paint a room, plant some flowers, or unpack boxes for a family member who has moved into a new home.
Prepare a favorite childhood meal for a family member who is feeling down.
Let him pick the movie.
Run a bath for someone who has had a rough day.
Kindness to Strangers
When you’re out shopping, hold the door open for someone who is struggling to carry bags or steer a baby stroller.
Let someone who seems like they’re in a hurry go ahead of you in line at the checkout counter.
Drop by your local firehouse with a few takeout pizzas to let firefighters and first responders know they are appreciated.
In spring or summer, cut flowers from your garden, make up some bouquets and deliver them to a local nursing home as a gift for patients who don’t normally get visitors.
Call the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and volunteer to rock premature babies. Many hospitals are looking for “baby rockers”.
Sew a “Rare Bear” for a child with a rare disease, these one-of-a-kind teddy bears are a comfort and encouragement to one-of-a-kind kids with rare diseases.
Knit a pair of prosthetics for a woman who has undergone a mastectomy. Find patterns and information about how you can help at KnittedKnockers.org
Sew a lap quilt to comfort children in need or distress. With the help of volunteers, Quilts For Kids makes and donates 30,000 quilts a year.
Kindness and Coffee
Surprise your spouse or loved one by bringing them a hot cup of coffee in bed. (My husband and I randomly take turns doing this. It may well be the secret to our 37 years of marital harmony.)
Quietly pick up the tab of the person standing in line behind you at your local coffee bar. It’s a small surprise that will make their day!
Surprise a young family with a new baby with a gift card from your local coffee bar and a homemade gift certificate for 90 minutes of babysitting so Mom and Dad can have a short but much needed coffee date.
Save up your coffee grounds for an avid gardener. Coffee grounds are a great fertilizer.
Kindness in Ink
Send a note of appreciation to someone whose hard work often go unnoticed – a trash collector, postal worker, pastor, or store clerk. Copy their boss.
Send a friend a funny greeting card, just because.
Write a favorable online review for a local business that does a great job.
Keep your Eyes and Ears Open
Most of these random acts of kindness ideas were based on ideas I’ve tried over the years. Once you start looking, I’m sure you’ll come up with more ideas and endless opportunities – large and small – to bless someone through kindness.
Isn’t it nice to know that when you help brighten someone’s else’s day with kindness, you’re helping yourself as well? As Aesop said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Search for an opportunity to be kind this week. You’ll be doing good unto others, and unto yourself.