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Random Acts of Kindness: Ideas to Promote Positive Mental Health

Random Acts of Kindness: Promote Positive Mental Health

Did you know that performing random acts of kindness for others can have benefits for you as well?

It’s easy to think that when you are kind to somebody without expecting anything in return from them, you don’t get anything in return at all. But that’s not the case, and if you think about it, you can probably remember experiencing the benefits of your own kindness in the past.

Being kind to others causes you to feel happier as well. This may be because behaving in kind ways stimulates the production of serotonin, a chemical that your brain produces to help regulate mood. But there’s more. When you’re focused on being kind to others, it distracts you from thinking about yourself.

Focusing inward – thinking too much about yourself and your own problems – can contribute to problems like anxiety and depression. If you’re prone to ruminating on things that bring you down or make you worry, being kind to others is a great way to get your mind off of those topics, which can, in turn, lift your mood.

And being kind to others strengthens your relationships – with friends, with family, with your community, and with the world at large. Strong relationships and human connection are very important for mental health, and kindness is a proactive step that you can take to help yourself.

Random Act of Kindness Day is celebrated on February 17th. Take a look at ideas for random acts of kindness that you can use to help others and promote positive mental health.

Random Acts of Kindness for Strangers

Most people expect that those they know will treat them reasonably well, while expectations for strangers remain low. There’s no reason to believe that a stranger will think anything of you.

That’s why truly positive interactions with strangers stand out – you probably didn’t have any expectation that this interaction would be different than other neutral interactions.

It’s easy to make a stranger’s day with a random act of kindness because they aren’t expecting it. Some fun ways to perform a random act of kindness for a stranger include:

  • Paying a toll for the person behind you, or paying for the order of the person behind you at a drive-through
  • Putting some change in a parking meter that’s about to expire
  • Leaving a big tip for a server
  • If you’re doing your laundry at a laundromat, leaving your unused quarters for someone else to find and use
  • Purchasing a few gift cards in small denominations and hand them out randomly (grocery store, gas station, and VISA gift cards are good for this)
  • Sending a box of donuts, bagels, or other treats to a nurse’s station at a hospital or nursing home
  • If you notice someone in the grocery store line putting items back or searching for change to pay, step in and pay the difference for them

Don’t have any money? Not a problem. There are also plenty of free ways to make a stranger’s day:

  • Holding the door open
  • Giving up that good parking spot for someone else
  • Offering your bus seat to someone who’s standing, or switch your window or aisle seat with someone who’s stuck in the middle
  • Helping someone who’s struggling with heavy packages
  • Stopping to help a stranded motorist change a tire
  • Letting someone ahead of you in line
  • Offering to take a turn holding a crying baby in a waiting room
  • Giving directions to someone who’s lost
  • Smiling at someone – anyone – for no reason other than to spread cheer

Random Acts of Kindness for Family and Friends

Expectations are higher when it comes to people you’re familiar with.

Hopefully, you’re nice to the people in your life that you know and care about. It’s easy to surprise somebody that you know with a random kind act.

Take a look at some options for performing random acts of kindness for the people in your life:

  • Take care of a chore that someone has been too busy to get to lately – wash a car, mow a lawn, do a load of laundry
  • Make a playlist of music you think someone you care about will love
  • Write a positive message on a post-it note and leave it somewhere that they’ll find it
  • Offer to babysit so a parent you know can have a night out
  • Cook a meal for someone who needs a break
  • Bring someone cookies
  • Gift someone a book that you think they’ll enjoy
  • Write a letter – with pen and paper – and mail it to someone
  • Bring two lunches to work. Give one to a coworker
  • Leave a box of doughnuts in the break room for everyone
  • Write a list of reasons why you love someone, and give it to them
  • Give someone a ride
  • Make a care package for someone
  • Surprise someone with a spontaneous outing, like a trip to the movies, lunch at a restaurant, or a game of bowling
  • Carry an extra umbrella so that you can lend it to someone who forgot theirs
  • Give someone a hug (ask permission first)
  • Tell someone that you love/like/admire them

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Things to Keep in Mind

It can be easy to overthink random acts of kindness.

It can be nice to carefully plan out a kind act, but if that’s the only way you perform random acts of kindness, you’re probably missing opportunities to be kind in the moment. A meticulous plan is not necessary. Sometimes it’s OK to just say or do something kind the moment you think of it.

If you’re having trouble finding opportunities for random acts of kindness, try heading to places where lots of people are often stressed out, busy, and in need of a kind word or deed.

Airports, grocery stores, the mall, the waiting room of a doctor’s office or government building, and bus, train, and subway stations are all good places to look for people in need of some kindness.

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