“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
-Sir Winston Churchill
Did you know that there are 13 human behaviors that, when we engage in them regularly, can engender happiness with 92% probability?
According to the Human Thriving Foundation, a non-profit group of doctors and scientists who have spent over 15,000 hours studying the subject, engaging in these behaviors on a regular basis can do far more to make us happy than any drug we can take, or material possession we can buy.
The 13 behaviors fall under the following categories:
- Social-support group
- Work-life balance
- Leisure time
- Preventative health
- Random acts of kindness
It’s this last one, the random acts of kindness, that I want to focus on here.
The Power of Kindness
“When you carry out acts of kindness you get a wonderful feeling inside. It is as though something inside your body responds and says, ‘Yes, this is how I ought to feel.'”
-Harold Kushner, American rabbi
If you’ve ever done someone a kindness, no matter how small, then you already know how good it makes you feel. Your heart glows, you crack a smile, and just for a moment, what you wish the world were like and what it is actually like completely align.
And the person you did the kindness for experiences the same thing when they realize someone did something for them. In that moment, their world stops spinning. If they were lonely, they realize they’re not alone. If they were angry, they’re not anymore. If they were sad, they can smile.
I have experienced these moments of grace myself, and I always think that if we could feel like this more often, the world would be a much more joyful place to live. It can even benefit us on a financial level, making us more productive and motivated at our jobs, while also distracting us from many other expensive activities in which we might otherwise be taking part.
The problem is that we get busy and forget. We’re working and cooking dinner and taking the kids to soccer practice. We worry over utility bills and surf the Internet and watch TV and we forget that there are other people in the world who would give anything to be reminded that they’re not alone, that we’re all in this together.
There’s a lot of darkness in this world. But all of us can spread light by doing a small act of kindness for someone. When we do, we pass on a spark that, more likely than not, that person will pass to someone else, who will pass it on to someone else. One act of kindness can go on for years, spreading love in the world.
Random Acts of Kindness
“There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up.”
I know many of you are starting to think about what you want to do and accomplish this year. You’re starting to make goals to better yourself by quitting smoking, losing weight, sticking to your budget or getting physically fit and in shape. And these are all worthy goals.
But my challenge to you, and for myself, is to start spreading more kindness in the world. I’m talking about the small acts of kindness we do with an open heart, with no want or expectation of recognition or reward. All of us, no matter how grim our situation may seem, live a blessed life. We could all be doing more to give back to the people – strangers, friends and family alike – around us. These little things, I believe, can change the world.
18 Ways to Change the World
What can we do? Your only limitation is your imagination. But here are some ideas:
- Smile from your heart at strangers.
- Offer your babysitting services for free for new parents so they can sleep or spend time with each other.
- Spend time with an elderly person.
- Buy flowers for the woman in your office who’s having a rough time.
- Leave a good book at a bus stop.
- Don’t just give money to the homeless person on the corner, stop and talk with them. Ask their name. Buy them dinner and eat with them.
- Instead of following normal tipping etiquette, leave an extravagant tip.
- Be kind to someone you dislike.
- Cook a meal for someone who is sick, elderly, or just had a baby.
- Pay someone’s expired parking meter.
- Visit someone in hospice care.
- Let someone go in front of you in line while you’re doing your grocery shopping.
- If you experience great service, compliment the worker and tell their manager.
- Give sincere compliments as often as you can.
- If you see an elderly person having trouble pumping their gas at a gas station, offer to do it for them.
- Leave the coupons you didn’t use at the register for someone else.
- Spend time with people in nursing homes. More often than not, they’re lonely.
- Leave change at a pay phone for whoever uses it next.
What are some small kindnesses that you have done to give back to the community? What are you planning for in the new year? Share your experiences here!
(photo credit: Shutterstock)