Random acts of kindness improve our overall mental health. I recently watched a ‘Ted Talk’ by Orly Wahba, founder of Life Vest Inside, whose mission is to spread kindness. Orly, a middle school teacher, is committed to combating both bullying and depression through random acts of kindness. She built the Life Vest Inside organization in attempts to help her 7th grade class through mourning the death a fellow student and the death of another child in their community. Orly returned to her classroom with the goal of trying to help her students make sense of tragedy in life. She states, “The only way we make sense of tragedy is through kindness. It is through kindness that we help each other through life and small acts of kindness matter.” Research consistently shows that small acts of kindness help not only the receiver and the giver, but also those who witness the act of kindness. Think about the last time you witnessed a random act of kindness. Did it bring a smile to your face? Perhaps you have been too busy to notice the small acts of kindness. We recently discussed this topic in our Positive Psychology group. With the holiday season approaching the women decided to orchestrate and participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange, offering one another random acts of kindness rather than gifts. I challenge you to pick one day a week to commit to performing a random act of kindness. Do this for a few months and keep of track of how you feel.
Random Acts of Kindness – Ideas
Participating in a random act of kindness on a daily basis is much easier than you may think. Opportunities to engage in kind acts present themselves almost constantly. Below we have listed some of our favorite ideas for daily random acts of kindness – use these examples for starters, and work towards developing your own practices.
- Leave change in a vending machine.
Carry around a roll of tape for a week or two. Every time you pass by a vending machine or a gumball dispenser, tape some change to the side with a simple note. “Today your snack is on me!” It may seem simple (or even silly), but this random act of kindness has the potential to make a major positive impact on someone’s day.
- Bake someone a cake.
Baking a cake for a friend, family member, or coworker will foster a sense of appreciation and compassion, and may be just what someone needs to feel uplifted and valued. It is sometimes difficult to tell when someone is feeling down and out – giving someone a thoughtful, homemade gift such as cake may make a major impact on his or her day (or week).
- Pay someone’s toll.
Traffic can be frustrating, especially when you seem to be stopping every few miles to pay a toll. Make someone’s journey slightly more enjoyable by offering to pay the toll of the car behind you.
- Collect coats to donate.
Donating coats to a homeless shelter can make a huge impact – especially around the holiday season (when it tends to cool down in most parts of the world). If you live somewhere like Florida, for example, donating lighter clothes may be a better option.
- Offer a loved one several hours of free babysitting.
Many young parents avoid going out as much as they’d like seeing as the rates of good childcare are not always easy to budget in. Offer family friends several hours of free babysitting, allowing them to enjoy a nice dinner or get to a movie they’ve been wanting to see.
- Smile at strangers.
Smile at strangers on the street, smile at the driver next to you at a traffic light, and smile at the grocery store cashier. Smiling at all those who you come into contact with will not only help brighten their days, it will inevitably boost your own mood as well.
- Pay someone a compliment.
Try to pay upwards of five compliments a day. Tell a woman on the bus that you love her dress, or tell an elderly man walking through the park that his sneakers are really cool. Receiving a compliment from a random stranger can truly boost someone’s mood.
- Help a neighbor with yard work.
Yard work is never fun – helping an elderly (or any) neighbor with some raking, blowing, and mowing can seriously impact his or her day. Families with small children will typically be extremely grateful to receive any help around the house. Offer to wash the windows or clean the deck as well, considering you’ve got the time!
- Plant flowers.
Starting a community garden can be a great undertaking, but if you don’t find yourself with that much free time, simply plant some flowers at your local park or elementary school (with permission, of course).
- Donate your old books to a library or school.
Many school-aged children do not have access to books or education because of financial reasons. Donating your old books to the local library may have a major impact on a child in your neighborhood.
These are just several ideas to help get you started – the concepts and opportunities to do good in this world are truly boundless! Participate in a random act of kindness today, and begin changing your own perspective as well as the world around you. For more ideas on random acts of kindness, visit randomactsofkindness.org.