Have you ever wondered if holding a door for a stranger has any benefit to the world or yourself, other than the small amount of pride you can take in helping another person in some small way?
And if you hold the door, and instead of a smile or a thank you, that stranger gives you some sort of strange – what are you doing weirdo? – look, making you question whether you want to continue helping strangers, does that mean your kind act ended up being detrimental rather than beneficial?
There have been research results to support both sides of this coin. Some studies show evidence of conducting random acts of kindness being beneficial regardless of the reaction, time frame, size of act, or any other measurable variable. Some studies show there isn’t much benefit, to the doer, unless the acts are done a certain way and over a specific period of time. So it would be possible that you’d do some random acts of kindness, and not garner the results you’re hoping to achieve.
You’ll have to decide for yourself whether you believe kind acts are worth doing or not. In my experience, they are. I’ve also found that even when you don’t experience the reaction you were hoping for right away, the reaction still happens. Sometimes, it is just delayed. And whether or not you ever get it from the receiver doesn’t matter that much. It matters more how you feel about what you do and the impact it has when others see you making a positive impact on the world.
How Does Performing Acts of Kindness Affect You?
There are many studies suggesting that committing niceties for others helps us feel happier ourselves. If you look at any research done on priming your brain, it totally makes sense that if you are doing nice things for others, you are also putting your own brain in the mindset of nice things. Just thinking of nice things you COULD do for others generally puts your brain in a happier state.
Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, says over 200 studies around the world show a happier brain or a person in a positive mood is more likely to be successful than a person in a neutral or negative mood. Those studies show the brain’s abilities related to things such as memory, creativity, and problem solving are all affected positively by good mood. So performing intentional acts of kindness is beneficial to the doer even if only for its priming of a positive mindset.
How Does Performing Acts of Kindness Affect the World?
It’s no surprise that when one person does something nice for another, the recipient is more likely to do something nice for a third person, and so on. Research has shown that just as acts of aggression toward others can lead to the same in those others, so too do acts of generosity lead to more generous behavior in the recipients. If you want to help mold your college campus, community, or society as a whole into a kinder place, it all starts with being the altruistic example.
Do you want to live in a place where people are consistently paying forward niceties done for them? The best way to foster that environment is to be the person who births it. Someone always has to be first – one person willing to pay it forward when there was nothing yet received. You can feel great about the fact that the size of the act doesn’t matter as much as the number of acts completed. To help you brainstorm things you might like to implement, see the list below.
Acts of Kindness – A List to Help You Decide Where to Start
- Say “Good morning” to people you cross paths with in the morning.
- Put a shopping cart back in its holder – even if it wasn’t one you used.
- Take off your shoes when you enter someone’s home.
- Give out compliments – even to strangers such as the person at the register.
- Hold open the door for people coming in behind you.
- When someone lets you in, on the road, wave a “thank you” to them.
- Remember your restaurant servers name and say thank you to them.
- Listen intently when someone speaks to you. Look at them, not at your phone.
- When introducing someone, give him or her a stellar intro – make them feel great.
- When you arrive at someone’s home, take his or her newspaper to the door.
- Roll empty trashcans from the curb to your neighbor’s drive for them.
- When you arrive at the bank, wait to pull in line for the drive through until you are actually ready so you don’t hold up the people behind you.
- When leaving a store, give any coupons you aren’t going to use to someone else entering the store. Or leave them sitting near the products they discount.
- Give a child selling lemonade $5 for the cup they are selling for $.50 and take no change.
- When leaving your hotel room, pile all of the towels in one spot to help the housekeeping staff.
- When your delivery guy drops off a shipment, offer him a bottle of water.
- Pay the toll for the driver behind you.
- Take a minute to direct someone who is lost, even though you’re rushing.
- Write a letter to a child who could use some extra attention. Kids love getting mail.
- Offer to pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor, especially in extreme weather.
- Give a homeless person a bagged lunch.
- Say “I love you” to someone you love.
- Put a coin in an expired meter.
- Help a mother carry her baby stroller.
- Each time you get a new item of clothing, give away something old.
- Take someone’s shift as the car-pool parent or the designated driver.
- Bring your assistant, co-worker, or friend coffee, tea, or a smoothie.
- Out of the blue, send flowers to someone.
- Say “please” and “thank you”—and really mean it.
- When you’re on a crowded train or bus, offer your seat to an elderly, disabled or pregnant person (or anyone who looks like they could really use it).
- Send someone a hand written note of thanks (or leave it on your table for a server)
- Send a ‘thinking of you’ card to a friend or family member for no reason.
- Buy a coffee or water for a person working outside.
- Cut your neighbor’s lawn when cutting your own.
- Walk your friend’s dog.
- Give a compliment about your waiter / waitress to his / her manager.
- Send someone a small gift anonymously.
- Stop and help someone replace their flat tire, jump his battery or get a tow.
- Let someone jump the queue at the bank, grocery store, or coffee shop.
- Pay for drinks for the next person in line (or few people).
- Give a huge tip to someone when they least expect it.
- Hold the train or elevator door open for someone rushing to get in.
- Write notes of appreciation at least once a week.
- Don’t litter! Pick up others’ littler as you walk by it and throw it away.
- Compliment a work or school colleague for their excellence.
- Recommend one of your customers to another one of your clients that could use their services.
- Give another driver your parking spot.
- Let someone in front of you that is trying to switch lanes or turn on to the road.
- Help an elderly person carry their groceries out.
- Leave a copy of an interesting book on a train, bus, or in a waiting room.
- Donate the books or magazines you’ve read to a library or a book resale store.
- Buy an inspirational book for a friend.
- Send a thank you note to a person who has helped you in the past.
- Smile a lot, at everyone.
If you have some ideas to add to this list, send me a message or leave a comment. I’d love to add them.
When you implement these acts, send me a message or leave a comment on how it impacted that person or how it made you feel. I’d love to hear your positive stories.