Looking for a few easy ways to fit some random acts of kindness into your busy schedule? It’s a whole lot easier than you think.
Acts of Kindness: We’re Built For It
Stop reading for a moment and think about the last time you did something kind for someone– was it today? Yesterday? Two weeks ago? We all live busy lives. Everyone’s got a crammed schedule, and we’ve got enough happening to go throughout our day without having to think often of others. But when we do go out of our way to perform random acts of kindness for other people, it feels like an enormous personal victory. Kindness makes us feel good and look good, and for most people, that’s enough of a reason to be kind.
But kindness isn’t about us as much as it is others. We’re designed for community with other humans. We’re hard-wired to communicate, reciprocate, and create with other people. Life feels isolating when we get too caught up in our own bubble. It takes effective organization and planning to make time for everyone and everything going on around us, leaving us with one important question: Is it possible to pencil in some time for kindness in the middle of all our commitments?
Take another moment to think about the last time someone did something kind for you. If it’s been a while since someone’s treated you with kindness, remember that others think the same thing about us. Expecting to receive some encouragement or kindness from others only stretches so far before we have to check our own habits.
Kindness feels awkward and uncomfortable for some people. We all know that one person who overdoes it. Even if they’re being kind, we’d rather them just act normal. For others, kindness comes naturally. Whether it’s during a coffee break, an Uber ride home, or in the grocery store checkout line, being kind to people doesn’t always mean huge personal sacrifice. Kindness is unexpected, but it’s contagious. If we’re kind to others, it inspires them to return the favor. So while we’re sitting here thinking “Sure! This all sounds good in theory, but how do we practice being kind to others without being a weirdo?”, here are a few easy ways to carry out simple acts of kindness for a friend, family member or stranger.
2. Kindness With A Smile
It’s as easy as that. Everyone needs to smile more, and if you’re not the “smiling type”, you should re-evaluate a few things. Smiling is cool (it’s actually good for your health, too), and we can do it anywhere. We interact with strangers everywhere we go; the DMV, movie theatres, restaurants… the list is endless. Next time we’re buying groceries at Lidl, let’s smile at the cashier and ask how they’re doing. They’re tired (just like us) and have a million other things going on, too. Treating them like a friend will make their day.
3. Hold The Door
How irritating is it when that person only a few steps ahead of us doesn’t stop to hold the door? It takes no time at all, yet everyone seems to be in a rush. It probably didn’t even cross their mind, but we took offense. Now, how great is it when that person does wait a few seconds to hold the door? No one owes it to us, but that’s why it’s special. It’s a small gesture that’s more inclusive than not doing anything at all, and people love to feel included. Whether it’s the C.E.O. or the delivery man, it’s a subtle way to remind people (and ourselves) that we’re all a part of the human community.
4. Notes of Kindness
While we probably won’t be writing any notes to the person we just held the door for, this one is great for friends, family, and loved ones. People create routines, good and bad, and it’s easy to forget that kindness is needed in relationships that we’ve already created. Know someone long enough and both parties get a little lazy. But everyone loves handwritten notes, especially unexpected ones, and taking a few minutes to let someone know why we appreciate them is a great way to bring some happiness into their day. And if you’re handwriting isn’t the best, you can always send them an encouraging text (or, if you’re in-the-know, you can connect with a quick message through a FamilyApp chat).
5. Give Compliments
And if we really don’t have the time to write any notes, there’s always the good old-fashioned compliment. We can give these to anyone, strangers included (but don’t be creepy). People care about what they’re wearing and how they look. People are often insecure, worried, and stressed, and complimenting something that we genuinely appreciate about them could change their day for the better. But that’s the catch: compliments must be genuine. There’s nothing worse than a sarcastic/half-hearted compliment, so choose your words wisely.
6. Just Listen!
We’ve smiled, we’ve held a few doors, and we’ve even thrown around a few compliments. And in most cases, each of those kind acts are a means to an end. But sometimes they aren’t, and if you find yourself shoulder to shoulder in the elevator with the person you just complimented (with 5 more floors to go), don’t shy away from a conversation. Give them a casual greeting and ask about their morning. People love talking about themselves, so listen to them. No one is naturally great at listening, so doing so might brighten their day. You might even make a new friend!
Regardless of how we’re doing it, the most important thing about random acts of kindess for others is not expecting them to return the favor. We’re not kind for our own gain, we’re kind for someone else’s gain. If that isn’t our goal then we might as well not do anything at all. Showing kindness to just one person each day is a small but critical step to changing the world around us. The best part? It’s completely free.