Performing Acts of Kindness Really Does Make You Happier
Random Acts of Kindness Day is February 17 this year, and it has us thinking about ways we can be kinder to those around us. When you’re so busy with everything going on in your own life — working to land your dream job, training for that marathon, organizing your desk — 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 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.
- Pick three close friends, and text each of them a glowing compliment.
- Surprise a coworker by ordering them lunch to their home or office to celebrate something they’ve accomplished recently.
- Call your mom. (She’ll LOVE this one.)
- 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.
- Offer to take care of some chores for a friend who’s sick or going through something rough.
- Leave a grande tip on your next Starbucks run.
- The next time you're in a drive thru, pay for the person behind you.
- Cook dinner and for your SO on a day when they're feeling stressed. This will mean even more if you don't usually do the cooking!
- Go through old clothes and books, and put them outside your home in a container with a sign that says "Free stuff!" (Just be sure to clean up your things if no one takes you up on the offer.)
- Make an appointment to donate blood.
What are your favorite ways to give back? Tweet us your tips @BritandCo, and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter!
This article has been updated.