Work keeps piling up, news cycles look dark, and politics grow bitter. To counteract all the negativity on a personal level, could performing a random act of kindness first thing each morning send more positivity into the world? No matter what happens next, you'll have begun your day knowing you've worked to brighten someone else's.
The bonus: selfless, no-return-expectations giving not only helps others but also improves our own health and well-being. The most definitive studies of the “helper’s high” show that when we give, dopamine is released in the brain, providing a hit of pleasure, says Dacher Keltner, the author of the recent book “The Power Paradox.” “Simply put, dopamine is released via the nucleus accumbens in the brain when we expect rewards,” Keltner says.
The initial, “random” acts can inspire a longer-term giving habit, which studies have found related to reduced chronic stress and anxiety.
To make the benefits of sharing kindness easy, here is a list of 12 ideas to get you started.
1. Handwrite a letter to someone who has inspired you lately.
2. Make a blood donation.
3. Review a small business positively online.
4. Offer to babysit a friend’s kid for an afternoon.
5. Bring a cup of coffee to a security guard, or leave a treat for your office receptionist.
6. Refashion an old cabinet into a Little Free Library for your street or building.
7. Combat road rage—let another driver go ahead of you, beckon a pedestrian to cross, hold off from honking when there’s a delay.
8. Compliment a business owner on an especially hard-working employee.
9. Or even write to another coworker’s manager to say what a great job they’ve done.
10. Online comments sections can be cesspools of negativity—change the tone by leaving a positive comment on a news article or blog post.
11. Send flowers anonymously to a friend who could use a pick-me-up.
12. Reconnect with an old friend, and share a memory you’ve kept with you.
Consider this a starter pack — as you get into the daily kindness habit, you’ll start to see more opportunities to help people every day.