The need to spread goodwill feels more vital than ever. We could all benefit from the help of others after enduring a pandemic that lasted more than two years and the terrible war in Ukraine. Donate to help people halfway around the globe or pay discreetly for groceries at a cash-strapped customer in the nearby store. Small gestures can make a big impact on both the receiver and the giver.
While a study published in Health Psychology suggests that spending money on others reduces your blood pressure, opening your wallet isn’t the only way to engage in acts of kindness. It can be difficult to find the right way to help others. These are some ways to increase kindness and help others.
Recognize Different Ways to Show Kindness
There’s no one-size-fits-all path to altruism. Brenda Knight, publisher and author of Random Acts of Kindness, divides these acts into Random, Deliberate, and Practical.
- Random acts–paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru line or putting money in an expired meter before someone gets a ticket–are the gestures we hear about most often. Websites like Random Acts of Kindness and blog posts that include ideas for adults and children can jump-start your kindness quest.
- Deliberate acts are when companies or individuals donate all or a portion of the proceeds to specific causes. Knight says that there are many causes that need your support. She is a writer and a publisher who ties her acts of kindness to books.
- Practical acts include serving food at a homeless shelter or volunteering to feed the animals at a no-kill pet shelter. Sites like VolunteerMatch, JustServe, and Engage list volunteer openings in your area.
Kindness Is Good for You
Studies, including one published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, suggest that kindness and caring can reduce stress. Tara Cousineau, a staff psychologist at Harvard Counseling and Mental Health Service, and author of The Kindness Cure, recognizes that volunteering requires effort. Volunteering takes you outside your comfort zone but is good for your mental health. She says that giving is more rewarding than receiving. It’s also uplifting.
Kindness can also reduce pain, anxiety, and depression. Volunteering to clean up a schoolyard, or walking a neighbor’s sick dog can help you feel better about your self and encourage you to be more open to others. Cousineau says that helping others is a simple way to improve your self-esteem. Cousineau says that helping others is a simple way to increase happiness.
Make Kindness Part of Your Screen Time Routine
“There’s a lot of power in routines when we make kindness habitual and add it to our daily practices,” says Houston Kraft, cofounder of Character Strong and author of Deep Kindness. To help him be kinder, he follows these steps. The first step is to send a “This reminds you of me” message. Once a day, he clicks on Timehop to find pictures he took on that day, say four years ago. This app collects photos and old posts from your photo gallery. It also supports Google Photos, Dropbox and Twitter. Kraft selects a memory that he would like to share and sends it to the app with a note saying, “This was important or special to me,” “I’m thankful for this because…”
He also uses social media to interact with others by mindful scrolling. He leaves comments on each of his five posts and gives tips or instructions for how to help others. He says, “I’m taking an unhealthy habit and redefining it to include something good.”
You Have More to Offer Than You Think
Before you dismiss your skills as too specialized or, on the flip side, worthless, consider a few factors. For grandparent, even a simple task such as checking email can seem daunting. Sharing your expertise with a senior on Elder Helpers gives you the opportunity to engage with others. Or, through Catchafire, you can volunteer virtually to help a nonprofit. You could be a valuable resource for others by sharing the skills that you find most common.
Uplifting Others Doesn’t Require a lot of Time
Kraft suggests making kindness more manageable by taking a day-to-day approach and implementing five-minute acts of kindness. This can be done by setting a timer to ease the burden. The goal is to express your appreciation and then move on. You could write, “I was just thinking about you,” or “Here are the reasons I was thinking about how you’ve been an inspiration in my life.” BeKind is an app that reminds you to do something nice and shares ideas to inspire you. The more you send messages, the easier it will be to write them.
Share Your Act of Generosity With Others
Cousineau encourages amplifying the positive because so much of our attention–an artifact of the way our brain is designed–is focused on the negative. “We have something in our attention network that scientists call the negativity bias,” she says. “We are naturally biased to focus our attention on things that could be uncertain, dangerous, or unsafe,” she says. This could be fulfilled by sharing a good deed.
Although the tendency may be to keep your good deed to yourself, post about it. You can announce your good deeds to others by dropping off pizzas at the local fire department or raking leaves for a neighbor. Having your positive actions publicly disclosed will help others remember you and possibly follow your lead. Instead of bragging, you are modeling behaviour others might not consider or be afraid to try. Nobly: Acts of Kindness is an app that makes it easy to share acts of kindness that can inspire selflessness from others.
Whether you take a friend to a doctor’s appointment or ask a cashier how they’re doing, a gesture of any size can alter your day and that of someone else. So the next time you pull out your phone, send a quic