There are many things to be sad about – inordinate amounts of work, traffic jams, the failure of our last romantic relationship, the war in Syria… The list is long. Yet, there seems to be an easy way to help improve the human condition by random acts of kindness. This practice also appears to be highly beneficial for your own health and wellbeing.
The selfless giving is something your body happens to enjoy by releasing happy hormones. Dacher Keltner from the University of California Berkeley, an expert on happiness, says:
“Simply put, dopamine is released via the nucleus accumbens in the brain when we expect rewards. Separate studies find elevated activation in the nucleus accumbens when we cooperate, give to charity, love someone, and are appreciated by others.”
It turns out that being kind to others makes us happier and less stressed. That is why it is worth considering a kindness routine to perform each morning. Here are a couple of suggestions:
1. Give your partner, friend or stranger a sincere compliment.
2. Play with the kids of your overwhelmed / sleepy neighbour for 10 minutes.
3. Call your grandmother (or send her flowers).
4. Write a Thank You note to your office cleaner.
5. Call a friend who’s been going through loss to see how she’s doing.
6. Buy lemonade from a stand.
7. Clean up your house and donate the things you don’t need anymore.
8. Flirt with the security guard.
9. Cook a meal and share it with someone.
10. Tell a joke to your grumpiest friend.
11. Notice the beautiful eyes of the shop-assistant and tell her that you’ve noticed them.
12. Find a poor artist to support (there are plenty).
13. Ask your colleague from Bulgaria to teach you a couple of words in his native language. Greet him the next day. Hello is pronounced /zdr-av-ay/.
14. Help out in the kitchen (and you’ll be blessed!).
15. Don’t jump to conclusions. Give someone the benefit of the doubt.
16. Leave a generous tip to a server.
17. Send an encouraging mail to someone you love.
18. Be polite on the road. Let another driver go ahead of you.
19. Write a positive comment in a blog you like.
20. Expand your ideas on how to bring joy to the world. This site may help.
We all stand in need of a little kindness. As the British philosopher, Alain de Botton, says:
‘’Kind people know that however confident we may look, we are painfully vulnerable to a sense of being disliked and taken for granted. All of us are walking around without a skin. Therefore, scattering flattering remarks isn’t devious or slick; it helps everyone to endure themselves.’’
Kindness seems to be the highway to a better world.
It doesn’t cost much but it makes a big difference both for you and those around you. Notice its side effects: you may feel vulnerable and soft. But don’t worry too much – it’s because of the dopamine release in your brain.