Did you know that there is a “Random Acts of Kindness Day?” I didn’t know, but there is, and it was last Thursday, February 17th.
I remember the idea of Random Acts of Kindness being put forward in a workshop I did way back in the late ’80s. It was a nice, and novel, thought. Then it became a bit of a trend and all of my friends and I cultivated the habit of making donations to causes we supported, and randomly doing nice things for strangers, expecting nothing in return. Just because. And also because it was good Karma.
I loved the rush I got from putting extra money in my parking meter, leaving time for the next person. Or surreptitiously paying for a stranger’s coffee. Or leaving flowers on a friend’s doorstep anonymously because I knew it would cheer them up.
As it turns out, that “rush” I got is because being altruistic stimulates the reward centers in our brain, releasing oxytocin and giving us what is called “a helper’s high.” Not only does spreading kindness help others feel good about themselves, it contributes to our overall sense of belonging and community – which has become so sadly divided in the last few years. It also boosts our energy, happiness, and health. In study after study, it has been shown that:
- Volunteering improves depression, reduces stress, and lowers our risk of cognitive impairment.
- Making donations to charities lowers our blood pressure and improves heart health. Think, “Open Hearted.“
- Giving to others deactivates our pain centers leading us to feel more comfortable and at ease.
- Committing a variety of kind acts throughout our week leads to improved happiness.
Our random acts can be either anonymous or visible. We can plan them ahead of time or just go-with-the-flow and follow a spontaneous impulse. You can do something as easy as giving a heartfelt compliment. You can mail a handwritten note to someone you haven’t seen in a while. Write a positive review. Donate a couple of books to your local library, or pick up a little litter on your walk. Drop your judgements for a whole day, all of them, even (or especially) the ones about yourself.
I’m sure there are as many ways to show kindness as there are people to do them, but in case you need new ideas, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has lists of wonderful ideas to try. I know I’ve been more inwardly focused than in the past, but that’s going to change.
Remember, giving kindness to others is also a gift to yourself. Let’s make Kindness contagious, in a good way!