Kindness benefits everyone
Stepping in for a stranger, a friend or a coworker in their time of need may be a no-brainer for you, but it doesn’t only benefit them; it can do wonders for you and for the universe. “It feels good to do something nice for someone. It boosts your self-esteem, it makes you feel like a better person and it can help you overcome any negative feelings you are experiencing in the moment,” says licensed clinical psychologist, Sarah Schewitz, PsyD. “If you’re feeling down, a surefire way to feel better immediately is to go do something nice and unexpected for someone else.” Psychologist, author, and relationship expert, Dawn Michael, PhD, adds: “When you are kind, that energy goes a long way, as the person you were kind to will feel better about themselves and perhaps do something kind for another person. I see kindness as a positive energy that, when passed on down the line, creates more positive energy in the world.”
Here are some random acts of kindness to make you a force of good in the world today.
For your significant other
While you might be the first to send a funny meme or listen patiently when your significant other needs to vent, or you’re always on call for a coworker working on a stressful project, you might not think of your significant other as someone who needs a random act of kindness. Dr. Michael says that simply acknowledging the benefit your partner adds to your life is an easy way to bring thoughtfulness into your relationship. “It can be a simple thank you to I really appreciate you when you do…,” she explains. “Letting the person you love know that you notice them is a positive act of kindness.” Psychologist Nikki Martinez, PsyD, LCPC, advises, “Do a chore that your partner hates without being asked to do so, and without the thought of being thanked for doing so. Do it simply because you know your partner hates it, and that doing it will be a welcome surprise.”
For your circle of friends
Friendship is always a give and take – the trick is to know when to give. While you might be raking in extra cash one month, your treasured friend might be struggling to make ends meet. Or, while you’re in a stable relationship, your friend may have been dumped – again. Martinez says stepping up when it’s your turn to help out a pal is an act of kindness they’ll likely never forget. “Send someone going through a tough time flowers,” she suggests. “Drop them a note and let them know you are thinking of them and what you appreciate about them. While small, these meaningful gestures will surely be appreciated by the recipient.”
For your coworkers
For better or for worse, you probably spend more time with your coworkers than you do with anyone else in your life. These communities often become your place to vent, your source of mentorship and encouragement and, at times, your pool of lifelong friends. Putting in the extra effort to make their day or help them up the ladder as you climb it too can go a long way. “In your weekly meeting, take time to acknowledge something that a coworker did that may have flown under the radar, or that others might not have known this person had done for the group,” Martinez says. “They will appreciate it, and perhaps others will start to notice ways in which they should appreciate this person on a regular basis.”
At the grocery store
Letting someone who has fewer grocery items jump ahead of you in line, or extending the same courtesy to senior citizens or people who are physically limited can show that you are cognizant of and sensitive to the world around you. Such gestures can be very impactful because people often are tunnel-visioned and in such a hurry in their own lives that they don’t see the whole picture in the moment and miss these opportunities to act kindly with little, if any, cost. If you’re able to fork over some cash, and can do it in a way that won’t make someone feel bad about themselves or uncomfortable, consider giving the cashier an extra $5, $10 or $20 for the person’s groceries behind you, especially if you see them pulling out food stamps.
We’ve all been there – you’ve got less than 20 minutes to get to work and you’re stuck in the slow lane watching someone take their sweet time getting off at your exit. Wouldn’t it be great if that person pulled over so you could zoom past? Martinez says you can perform that service to others, getting out of the way when you notice someone driving frantically. Let someone cross in front of you, or wait to turn and let them cross the street.
For a public servant
From policemen and firemen to postal office carriers, and that guy who picks up your trash from the curb, there are many people whose hard work often goes unnoticed. We’re so used to having them always present that we forget just how important it is to express our thanks for everything they do to keep us safe, informed and happy. Telling public servants something real and positive about how they directly helped you or our country can be very impactful. If you’re feeling extra generous, consider picking up a dozen doughnuts and bringing it to your local fire department. Any token of gratitude goes a long way.
For your neighbor
Whether you live somewhere like New York City or Los Angeles, where knowing your neighbors isn’t always the norm, or on a cul de sac where everyone knows your name, having good neighbors is a blessing in itself. Showing you care and that you’re paying attention can not only keep your home safe when you’re away, but it can also make the energy in your community that much more vibrant and happy. Do you have a neighbor who perhaps does not get around well? Shovel their walk, rake their leaves drop a simple gift and gesture on their steps, thanking them for being a wonderful neighbor. The gesture will be greatly appreciated, and it costs you virtually nothing to make them feel special and appreciated.
For your fitness instructor or trainer
Your fitness trainer might not be your therapist or confidante, but they’ve witnessed you in some very compromising and difficult situations and inspired you to push through your own boundaries. Thanking your personal trainer or the fitness instructor at your favorite workout class will not only make their day, but help them remember why they signed up to encourage others to sweat it out. It is very impactful to be acknowledged for the positive changes they are responsible for in your physical health and fitness.
For your family
Of all the people you probably forget to give a little nudge of love to, your parents, your siblings and your extended family fall close to the end of your list. It’s not that you don’t care about them, but since they’re a steadfast, dependable part of your life, you might not go the extra mile to make their life easier. It’s the little gestures for your family that make an impact. Random acts of kindness for your family can include taking your young niece or nephew out so your sibling who just had a baby can sleep; babysitting family members’ kids so your relatives can have a ‘grown-up’ date night out; visiting with an elderly relative in person if possible (or Skype/FaceTime) to talk about what his or her life was like and share memories and stories; giving a photo album or a CD of family photos or of a recent family event to the relatives who are involved or are being celebrated.