When you’re so busy with everything going on in your own life — working to land your dream job, training for that marathon, trying to decide if you really need the new Macbook — it can be easy to lose sight of the people around you. Whether it’s taking part in a big community volunteer project or just offering to meet a friend for coffee so she can vent over venti lattes, it’s important to take a step back and see what you can offer someone else every once in awhile. And not just because it’s the “right” thing to do — science just proved that there’s actually some truth to that old pop psychology adage that being good to others makes you feel good too.
In a new study by researchers at the University of Oxford and commissioned by kindness.org, the boost for your own mental health by doing kind things is small, but it definitely exists. To come to that conclusion, researchers systematically analyzed over 400 published papers on the relation between kindness and happiness. (We would have loved it if they’d run around performing random acts of kindness all day long and reported their own findings, because someone in a lab coat rushing around the city like a volunteering superhero sounds amazing, but whatever.)
The researchers noted that less accredited studies tend to exaggerate the effects, which is probably why there’s an entire self-help shelf devoted to books preaching “random acts of kindness” at your local Barnes & Noble. But what they found was that statistically, yes, it seems that doing something good for another person does actually increase your happiness levels — only by about a point or so on a 0-10 scale, but hey, that’s still something.
The study recommends further research to try to discern whether what good deed you do and/or who it’s for has an impact. (For example: Does giving a friend a gift carry the same weight as donating old clothes?) But for now, we’re at least convinced that we should incorporate more spontaneous acts of kindness into our daily routine.
If you’re on board too, here are 10 ideas for easy ways to get started on that do-gooder life:
1. Pick three close friends, and text each of them a glowing compliment.
2. Offer to treat a coworker to lunch in honor of something they’ve accomplished recently.
3. Call your mom. (She’ll LOVE this one.)
4. Make a small online donation to a charity or cause you believe in, and then share it on social media to encourage others to do the same.
5. Offer to take care of some chores for a friend who’s sick or going through something rough.
6. Leave a grande tip on your next Starbucks run.
7. Let the person behind you at the grocery store or pharmacy go ahead of you at check-out (unless they have like, a million items.)
8. Go through old clothes and books, and post an offer on Craiglist or Facebook to give them away for free.
9. Donate an old pair of glasses.
10. Make an appointment to donate blood.
What are your favorite ways to give back? Tweet us your tips @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)