33 Small Acts of Kindness You Can Do That Will Change Your Life
If not for others, do it for yourself.
Sure, you may be well aware of the obvious benefits others reap from your acts of kindness. But get this: those habits can also boost your mood and increase the amount of positivity in your life.
No matter how significant or insignificant the charitable endeavor may be—whether it’s as small as a positive Yelp review or as large as, well, a large tip—it’s likely to have big consequences on your own mental health. And don’t just take it from us. Take it from actual science: in recent years, psychologists and researchers have found that even the smallest acts of kindness can create a rebound effect on your own psyche.
So, in order for you to enjoy a happier and more fulfilled day-to-day existence, we’ve uncovered all of the small acts of kindness that can completely transform your outlook and perspective. Oh, and you’ll also make other people happy, too.
Start with a smile.
As many psychologists point out, smiling at others not only increases their level of comfort and happiness, but can also work to put you in a better mood. Simply taking the time out of your day to warmly greet others (even strangers) can affect people in ways that you’ll likely never know. Plus, it has the ability to put everyone around you in a much better mood—something that will inevitably benefit you further down the line.
Tell the people you love how you feel.
Even if the people you love already know how you feel about them, it’s important to keep reminding them of this fact—whether it’s through kind words or a random bouquet of flowers. When it comes to the people that you love, a limit should never exist on the number of times you remind them of the way you feel about them. This can keep your relationship strong, and, in effect, keep those endorphins coming.
Holding grudges won’t do you any good—especially when it comes to your mental health. So, even if this person committed an unspeakable act that severely impacted your life, it can benefit both of you to simply forgive them and move on from whatever happened. Further, possessing the ability to forgive is important, as holding on to negative feelings can work to compound your stress, making it much harder to live a normal life. And if you’re unsure if you’re positive enough, here are 23 Signs You’re Too Negative.
Hold the elevator.
Yes, it’s simple—but holding the elevator or door for someone goes beyond chivalry (women: hold the door for men, too!). In a perfect, kind world, holding the door for someone would not even require a second thought, but, alas, it seems to be a habit of the past. You never know—that person rushing to the elevator could be late for a career-changing meeting—and your act of kindness could buy them a few minutes of time.
Bring a cup of coffee to your coworker.
Again—you never know what another person is truly going through, meaning that a small act of kindness, such as bringing them a morning cup of joe, could truly brighten their day. Not only that, but doing this small act of kindness won’t require any more effort on your part, as you’re likely already grabbing a cup of coffee before dashing into work anyway. Performing this one act of kindness can also strengthen relationships with your coworkers, creating a friendship that may not have been there before—and work allies are always great.
Give up your seat on the train.
No matter how much you want to relax after a long day at work, not giving up your seat to someone who needs it much more than you do (the elderly, a pregnant woman, et cetera) only makes you look selfish. Plus, if you were in that position, wouldn’t you hope for someone to give up their seat for you to relax? This is a situation in which the golden rule comes in handy—because when you treated others how you would like to be treated, it can make you feel like you’re truly using your power of choice for good.
Help someone lift a heavy object.
When you see someone struggling with something heavy, do you really just walk past without feeling guilty? Or, if you do feel guilty, do you ever stop to help them out? If you’re like most people on the planet, you might be more worried about how long this task could take you, or if it will prove to be too strenuous. And while this is completely normal, take a moment to step into this person’s shoes—like the woman struggling to carry 17 grocery bags up 6 floors. Most likely, this task will only require a few more minutes out of your day, and you’ll feel better knowing that you helped someone else in need.
Allow someone to merge in traffic.
Especially for all of those city-dwellers, it can be easy to get into the habit of practicing selfishness on your daily commute to and from work. Whether or not you’re running late, it seems as though giving others a free pass is not something that you feel that you have time to do. So, rather than remain selfish, incorporate a bit of kindness into your commute by simply leaving space for others to merge into your lane. This simple act has the power to make others’ commutes just as stress-free as yours—and that is something that possesses the power to make you feel great.
Offer to babysit for tired parents in need of a night off.
Even if you don’t have kids of your own, you can at least empathize with those who do—caring for young children can certainly leave one with little to no free time. So, if you notice that a parent in your life seems more exhausted than usual, and could really use some alone time, volunteer your babysitting services. Not only will it give you a night off from your usual routine, but it could turn that parent’s week completely around and improve their mental health at that moment. Further, this act will communicate to your friend, coworker, or family member that you’re dependable—which can only work to strengthen your existing relationship.
Bake cookies for your new neighbor.
In this day and age, it seems, you’re lucky if you even know what your neighbors look like, as it’s become customary to simply dart out of your front door every day without a second glance. And while this may not apply to those living in a large apartment building (where you’ll never meet most of your neighbors anyway), you can work to change this cold system on your own, by bringing a basket of cookies or muffins to the new neighbor on the block to welcome them to the neighborhood.
This small gesture can make the new homeowners on the block feel welcome and at ease in their new digs, while also establishing a unity in the neighborhood that might benefit you later down the line. In fact, according to Bob Borzotta, author of Neighbors From H*ll, getting to know your neighbors can help diffuse arguments in a much more efficient manner. “If someone leaves their dog out too late barking, then that’s Joe—it’s not some random guy you hate,” he said.
Bring soup to a sick person.
While this is probably already a common occurrence for those living under the same roof as you, showing kindness to others when they’re sick can be a great way to demonstrate that you care for them. According to the University of Kansas Health System, this kindness doesn’t even have to be displayed by bringing over a container of soup—in fact, you can display kindness for those with a cold by simply offering to help in any arena of their life that may be neglected while they lay in bed and recuperate.
If you truly want to show the people you care about that you respect them, simply listening to what they have to say can be powerful on its own. It’s plain and simple: just stop interrupting those people in your life and they will understand that a mutual respect is established between you.
Fix something for someone else.
Especially for those people who may not have the ability to complete a simple fix on their homes, cars, or other large equipment, taking the time out of your day to give them a helping hand could not only save them money, but could also save them the precious time it takes to find a professional or watch video after video until they figure out a way to fix it themselves. Also, completing these small tasks for others could provide a way for you to keep practicing these valued skills.
Give appropriate compliments.
While it should go without saying that catcalling is not, in fact, a way to compliment others, giving strangers and friends alike compliments on their appearance and achievements can instigate a chain of kindness that, similar to karma, can navigate its way back to you, the sender. In fact, according to Hara Estroff Marano at Psychology Today, the ability to identify the beauty that exists in the world can be an infinite mood boost.
Give more donations.
With the endless possibilities that exist for donating your money to a great cause, it can be an overwhelming endeavor to choose the right one for you, to say the least. According to Forbes, you can spend time researching different causes on sites like GiveWell and Focusing Philanthropy that give you the ability to browse through different charity organizations. And, with the holiday season steadily approaching, give the gift of kindness by making a charitable donation in someone else’s name, gifting them the credit of this charitable endeavor.
Be kind to servers and retail employees.
Nothing will make you seem like more of a tyrant than bullying and belittling those in the service industry. After all, they are only present to fulfill your needs, and your constant harsh criticisms will only make it harder for them to do their job. Uttering a simple “please” and “thank you” will go much farther when paired with patience and understanding. So, the next time your waiter gets your order wrong, instead of throwing a fit, simply acknowledge that it was a simple mistake and ask for them to give it another try. Throwing a fit will only make the waiter feel less inclined to help you.
Make someone laugh.
Calling all Jerry Seinfeld wannabes (and normal jokers too): cracking a few jokes could actually benefit those around you. Aside from the fact that there are numerous health benefits of laughter, it can also provide an excellent way for you to bond with friends and family members—especially for those who could really use the laugh. This is because one of the biggest benefits of laughter is the side effect of stress reduction, that, according to the Mayo Clinic, can help ease any tension that you and your fellow gigglers have been holding inside.
Send a thank you letter.
No matter how great the act of kindness or favor may be, sending a thank you note is a more personal way to show your thanks. If you’re unsure about how exactly to pen your thanks, Hallmark has come up with a simple guide to better help you express just how grateful you are for that particular act of kindness. Aside from sending a thank you note, show how grateful you truly are by reciprocating their actions and doing something nice for them, allowing this chain of kindness to continue.
Share your resources with others.
Whether you’re referring a friend to a great lawyer or giving a stranger advice about which gym they should sign up for, you’re sharing your resources in an incredibly useful way that could ultimately benefit others in ways that are unknown to you. Further, there is truly no harm in telling others about your favorite coffee spot, or even where it is that you bought that top that everyone can’t stop complimenting. In these cases, not only are you helping friends and family score on these bits of great advice, you’re also supplying more business to places that you love so much. It’s truly a win-win.
Give someone a book that changed your life.
Similar to the point above, giving someone else the gift of life-changing wisdom can be one of the most powerful acts of kindness that exists. This can be any book that completely moved you or changed your perspective—whether this influx of wisdom came from a self-help book or a work of fiction. In a way, you’re beginning a chain of self-awareness and positivity through this gift, as the recipient could also feel moved enough to spread this new-found wisdom by gifting the book to someone else, or by simply spreading its message.
Pick up litter.
Not only will occasionally picking up litter benefit others, like small children and the surrounding wildlife, but it can also preserve your neighborhoods and parks, prevent floods, and work to keep the cost of living in your area low, as litter cleanups can prove to be expensive, according to the Providence Journal. Just being aware of the litter on the way to work or while taking a stroll through the park and doing your part to clean up the debris can work to preserve the beauty of the place that yourself and others enjoy so much.
Call your parents.
No matter how old you are, giving your parents (or any family member, for that matter) a call just to chat can do wonders for your relationship. Though your family will always be there to support you, it’s still important to remind them of how grateful you are for this fact—and that you’re always there on the other end of the line to do the very same.
Pay for someone’s meal.
Not only does making someone else’s day boost your mood, but it also has the ability to create a positive space, perhaps influencing the person who received a free meal from you to pass on that kindness to someone else. Plus, this act of kindness was in no way required from you, which makes it that much sweeter.
Leave a positive review.
Unfortunately, bad experiences are often more likely to trigger a negative-adjective-filled Yelp review. On the other hand, great experiences seem to incite nothing but a larger tip or an expression of gratitude. And, while yes, a bad review can alert other customers about a business or experience that they should avoid, a good review has the same, if not, greater, power to not only boost a business or service that truly deserves it, but to also clue in other prospective customers.
Show some kindness to a telemarketer.
Just like you, telemarketers are real people with real quotas to meet and job performance reviews—meaning that every time you call them names or hang up on them without even letting them speak, you’re unfairly making it incredibly hard for them to do their job. And yes, we get it—no one wants to sit through a five-minute monologue about the nonexistent benefits of a multivitamin you’ve never heard of, but, as it turns out, they may not exactly enjoy having to recite this spiel either. So, the next time a telemarketer calls you, practice just a little patience and at least sit through the monologue before angrily hanging up the phone without a calm rejection of their products or services. This way, you’ll both end the conversation in a more positive light.
Help an elderly person with their groceries.
Rather than simply standing by and watching an elderly person struggling with their groceries, take the five minutes to help them carry out a task that might have taken them much longer without your help. By simply carrying their load of groceries from the car to their kitchen counter, you’re preventing them from possibly injuring themselves or the food in this task—so props to you.
Send flowers to your partner.
Sending flowers to your partner (or just doing nice things in general) on a regular basis can show that you wish to celebrate their existence in your life every single day—and not just on the national holidays when it’s required. When you allocate more time to specifically think about making your partner happy, it easily becomes a habit—one that has the ability to significantly strengthen your relationship.
Encourage someone to pursue a goal.
The last time that you made a big change in your life, how was it that this decision came about? Was it perhaps, along with careful planning, a positive word from a friend or family member? If so, then you know the power of friendly pep talks—especially when making a big life decision that could completely change your life. Even if their dreams seem entirely too out-of-this-world, encouraging them to follow their life’s passion, whatever that may be, can give them the fuel that they need to pursue their dreams. With just a few words of encouragement, you could change the course of their entire life.
This one is fairly straight-forward: simply stop complaining every time you feel the urge. This especially pertains to those times in which the thing annoying you cannot be controlled, like waiting in line for your coffee at Starbucks.
Leave spare change around.
Laundry machines, parking meters, you name it—if a service you’re paying for is still reliant on the totally 20th-century payment method of quarters, leave an extra quarter or two behind. An unlucky soul will thank you. (Similarly, if you’re driving through a toll booth, consider paying for the person behind you. It’s a small act of kindness that doesn’t cost too much—and will make someone’s day.)
Let someone cut the line.
If you’re at the grocery store checkout line, with a massive cart loaded with food for the week, before approaching the register, look behind you. Does that person only have a handful of items? Let them go in front of you. You’ll be delayed by less than a minute, while the person behind you will save a not-insignificant amount of time.
Tip 22 percent.
It’s common practice to tip a waiter or waitress 20 percent. Bump that up a bit—by just 2 percent. Even if you weren’t happy with the service, think of it this way: Have you ever been less than absolutely perfect at your job? Would you want your wages dinged for a lapse in performance? Exactly. (Also, remember: per the Fair Labor Standards Act, some waiters might be making as little as $2.13 per hour before tips.)
Be kind to yourself.
While the other items on the list can make you feel good, the best way to truly improve your mental health is to be kind with yourself. Practice with not only others, but with yourself—setting impossible standards for yourself or constantly beating yourself up over things will only put you into a tailspin of negative thoughts. Practice kindness with yourself, and it will be much easier to do the same with others.
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