Kindness Counts: 7 Simple Ways to Improve Everyday Life
We’ve all had those moments: work stress, traffic jams, long lines at the store, and a disgruntled cashier can make fro a bad day. Your kids need dinner and homework help, and you’re worried about your sister’s follow-up mammogram. You’re struggling with an armload of groceries when a bag bursts in the parking lot. Suddenly, a stranger stops to help you pick up the fallen fruit. It’s a small gesture, but at the moment, it feels monumental. You thank the stranger and go on your way, a little bit lighter.
“Kindness proves to be an uplifting act, whether it be small or grand. Even further, kindness has been shown to produce health benefits for both the person giving kindness and the one receiving the act.
“Since engaging in a kind act can release chemicals in our brains that elevate our mood, it, in turn, reduces stress levels, which can further cascade with lowering blood pressure and balancing other vital functions. That’s not to say that kindness is a cure for health problems, but it certainly can help,” says Eliza Dias, Psy.D., a psychologist with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Simple acts of courtesy or good deeds help grease the wheels of society and make our communities kinder, gentler places to live. One study found that sending or receiving a “kindness card” played a significant role in enhancing well-being, reducing loneliness, and instilling a sense of hope and belonging.
Kindness doesn’t have to be as formal as mailing a care package or a special card. Often, it just takes a few seconds of your time.
Don’t be discouraged if your random act of kindness isn’t acknowledged. In those instances, remember the quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
As Dr. Diaz says, “Kindness can be contagious. People like feeling good and since engaging in a kind act produces that feel-good feeling, it makes people more likely to commit kindness. It takes just one small act to get things started.”
Here are seven simple random acts of kindness ideas:
Acknowledge your fellow humans.
Be aware of your surroundings and read the situation. You may find an opportunity to smile, cross the street to say hello, hold the door for someone, or give up your seat in the Metrorail to a person who is elderly, pregnant, or disabled.
Appreciate service providers.
The pandemic revealed our dependence on service providers – the same people who often go unnoticed or unappreciated. Ask a cashier or the wait staff how their day is going. Leave cold drinks out for maintenance workers on garbage pickup day. Tip appropriately. Compliment a job well done to make people feel better.
Let someone cut in line.
That mother with two fussy kids in tow? Let her go ahead of you in line. Sitting in traffic at a red light? Check your rearview mirror; allow that other car to pull out from a parking lot if it’s safe to do so.
Keep an eye on your neighbor’s house when they’re out of town. Invite a new resident over for a cookout. Tolerate the lively, once-a-year family reunion. Pick up after your dog.
Check in with a friend or family member.
If you can’t remember the last time you spoke with your dad, call or text him. You might not live close enough to accompany a friend to chemotherapy, but you can text a quick “Thinking of you today” to make her feel less alone.
Bring healthy treats to the break room.
Anyone can do donuts or cake. Could you bring fresh fruit or a batch of homemade muffins now and then?
Remember those who tend to be forgotten.
Visit an elderly neighbor or drop off a meal occasionally. If you feel uncomfortable giving money to unhoused individuals, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to a shelter or distribute bags with a water bottle, snacks, socks, toiletries, and a list of local social services. If you can’t adopt a shelter pet, foster a kitten or take a rescue dog for a walk. Word of warning: the gratitude you receive in return may make that foster a forever friend.
Compiled by Nancy Moreland, a UHealth Collective contributor.
Read this article to learn more about the health benefits of kindness.