“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
Buddha

When was the last time you helped somebody? Was it a big gesture or perhaps something small that brightened somebody’s day? How did it make you feel?

Altruistic behaviour and acts of kindness can be an efficient way of improving your sense of well-being. I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you were exposed to or contributed to an act of kindness. Such things as smiling and greeting people in a friendly manner or sincerely complimenting someone about their smile, their positive outlook, their caring attitude, or something they do or have done well. It can be giving your total attention to people when they are talking, offering support to someone who has a problem. Acts of kindness can also be opening a door, saying please, thank you, excuse me, and other common courtesies. It can also be not doing something. For example, refraining from such things as gossiping, finding fault, or making negative judgements.

One of the most famous studies of the impact of acts of kindness on well-being was undertaken by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky. The study consisted of asking participants to “practice kindness” by doing small selfless acts for 10 weeks with both people they already knew, as well as strangers. Acts of kindness could be carried out openly or secretly, and could be spontaneous or planned. The study demonstrated that participants experienced a huge increase in well-being and that doing several of these acts on the same day increased their satisfaction even more.

The scientifically proven benefits of being kind?

One example

In the process of writing this book, I’ve interviewed over a hundred people. One of them, María, told me that she used to donate blood, which made her feel really good. However, for some time she had been very busy and couldn’t find the time to donate; until last Christmas, when she passed in front of a Red Cross bus with her family and decided to donate. That day she felt great joy, which was even greater when she received the following thank-you email:

“THANK YOU FOR SHOWING YOUR HEROIC SIDE

Date of your donation: 28/12/2013

Dear María:

First, we want to tell you that the analysis of your donation, done in accordance with the law, has come back normal.

And now we want to convey our thanks.

For bringing out the best in yourself… Thank you! For helping 3 people live or be in better condition… Thank you! For doing so without expecting anything in return…

Thank you! We would really like to thank you in person when you visit us again at the mobile units or the Transfusion Center. Just a reminder that you can donate blood again 2 months after your last donation (up 4 times a year for men and 3 times for women). And since solidary is better shared, why don’t you bring a friend or family member to your next visit and donate together?

We are at your service at our toll-free number 900 506 819 or online www.donarsangre.org.

Thanks again.

Sincerely,

The Transfusion Center of the Spanish Red Cross.

Now María donates regularly, which brings her great satisfaction. Surely, you also have ideas for selfless activities that you can do in the coming days. Remember that afterwards you’ll feel great. So, what are you waiting for?

Exercises

I suggest some  ideas to help you exercise the habit:

  • Plan for kindness – Do some thinking about what you might do to spread some kindness – then you’re more likely to spot opportunities when they come up. Make yourself a list of small actions you could take in your daily life, I share some ideas below. Think about people you know and others that you pass by in the course of the day. What could you do today or tomorrow? What do you feel drawn to doing? There are lots of ideas below to get you thinking. You can also put you in your calendar in the morning and use existing calendars as the one proposed by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
  • Act with Kindness
    • Choose a day of the week and do at least 5 selfless acts beyond what you normally do.
    • You can also commit to doing random acts of kindness every day for a week and count them. In The Journal of Happiness Studies, a team of Japanese social scientists reports that happy people became happier simply by counting their own acts of kindness toward others for one week, and they became kinder and more grateful through this subjective counting.
    • You can also go for the 10 weeks exercise.
  • Do it together – Try to think about kind things you could do with friends, family,  neighbours or your team. You can swap ideas and support each other. Doing new things together helps build connections, which also increases happiness, so it’s a win all round. If you’ve got children, get them thinking about what they can do too. Ask them what kind acts they gave or received that day – they might share some lovely stories with you!
  • Reflect about it- You can end up you day reflecting about the Acts of Kindness you did during the day and how you felt about it.

It could be something small, like giving up your seat, holding the door for someone, etc.

Below you can find some ideas you can easily implement.

Some ideas

SIMPLE PLAN AHEAD
Open the door for someone.

Give a helping hand when you see someone carrying a lot of stuff.

Pay someone a compliment.

Help someone with his or her groceries or bags.

Smile!

Acknowledge the cashier who’s helping you and genuinely ask them how they’re doing.

Get an item off a high shelf for someone.

Give up your seat for someone who needs it more.

Remove debris or other obstacles from a road or path.

If you arrive at a stop sign at the same time as another driver, let them go first.

Purchase a couple of umbrellas, blankets, and/or ponchos at a dollar store, and keep them in your trunk. When it’s a cold or rainy, find a person who needs it (try a bus stop) and give them one.

Write an inspirational note to someone who needs inspiration.

Drop off a toy or game at a hospital.

At the post office, leave some extra stamps at the stamp machine.

Buy a phone card and give it to a homeless shelter for them to give to someone.

Open the phone book, pick a name, and send them something (movie tickets, thank you card, book, etc.) anonymously.

Take flowers to a hospital ward and give them to someone who hasn’t had any visitors.

RANDOM FUN
Pay for a bridge toll for the person behind you.

Write anonymous, caring post-it notes for strangers to find.

At a restaurant, pay for a table’s lunch or dinner anonymously.

Pay for someone’s groceries.

Put something you no longer need on craigslist.org for free.

Tape some change to a payphone with a card saying it’s for whoever needs it.

Buy a movie ticket for the person behind you in line.

Pay for someone’s meal behind you at the drive-thru.

Volunteer your time at a non-profit organization.

Buy a meal for a homeless person.

Leave a book you have already finished somewhere for someone else to read.

Drop off a toy or game at a homeless shelter.

Offer to help an elderly neighbour with their household chores.

Go to a tourist spot and offer to take people’s pictures with their cameras.

Wave back to children who wave at you.

Call a friend randomly and let them know you’re thinking of them.

Bring a treat to work to share with your co-workers.

Send someone a small gift anonymously.

Drop off flowers at your friend or neighbour’s house.

Leave anonymous thank you notes to teachers.

Invite a friend to the movies or to dinner.

Put change in a vending machine.

Write letters of appreciation to groups who are helping the community, the environment, etc.

If you know someone who is having a hard time financially, pop 5, 10 or 20 Euro in an envelope, disguise your writing or type the envelope, and mail it to him or her.

Drop a few coins in an area where children play, where they can easily find them.

More great tips and ideas for random acts of kindness can be found at: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org

Here is an inspiring video of the impact of Acts of Kindness in our lives and in people around us

Don’t you feel better already?

MORE RESOURCES