During these dark days of the Trump presidency, outrage, anger and sadness come easily. Kindness? Not so much. But little acts of kindness can make a big difference when it feels like angry feelings might be threatening to spill over into other areas of your life. It's not hopeless. Being kind can make you happier, and in turn your kindness toward others can make them happier. And, who doesn't want to be happy?
It's scientifically proven, too. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford," being kind to others causes a small but significant improvement in subjective well-being." So, even if you don't feel like being kind, do it to help yourself feel better. Seriously.
What's more, as the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation notes, "The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to 'pay it forward.' This means one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people." So basically, doing something to make yourself feel better can positively impact dozens of other people, and that should make you feel really good. Think of it as a kindness chain reaction.
If you're struggling to see the bright side of things these days, consider performing these 15 acts of kindness to help yourself, and someone else have a great day. It's a win-win.
1. Tell someone they're doing a good job. Sometimes it's easy to feel like you're losing at life, but the simple act of hearing someone tell you you're doing a good job can quickly turn things around. Hearing that you're doing things well can make you more motivated. Do you know someone who's doing a good job? Tell them.
2. Say "thank you." Practicing gratitude has untold benefits to health and well-being. If someone does something nice for you, even if it's just opening a door, say "thank you." It will make you both feel good.
3. Complain less, compliment more. Research has shown that focusing on the things that are going well instead of the things that aren't can create positive feeling in your brain.
4. Bring food to a neighbor. I thought this only happened in the '50s or on TV, but then I moved to a neighborhood where it was actually a pretty regular thing. When my neighbor showed up on my doorstep with homemade tamales, my heart filled with gratitude.
5. Be kind to your server. Someone once told me that you can tell what kind of person someone is by how they treat people who work in the service industry. In my experience, this is true. I waited tables all through high school and college, and believe me, a little kindness goes a long way to the person who's serving up your burger.
6. Hand-write someone a thank-you note. In the digital age, everyone loves to get a handwritten note. If you really want to stretch yourself, the Random Act of Kindness Foundation suggests writing 52 thank-you notes a year, each one to a different person.
7. Ask someone if they need help. Last year I was walking my dog on a Sunday morning, and there was an elderly woman standing on the corner having trouble crossing the street. I asked her if she needed any help. It turns out she was almost blind, and couldn't see the traffic. She was on her way to a church on the next block, so I offered to walk her there. I have to admit, it did make me feel good to know I got her off to church safely.
8. Volunteer to walk shelter dogs. Many animal shelters rely on volunteers to get dogs out for exercise, and these volunteers are often in short supply. Have some free time? Contact your local shelter and ask if they need help. You'll reap the benefits, too!
9. Make something for someone else. When I was a newspaper journalist, a woman showed up at my office with a shirt she had made for me to thank me for an article I had written. It was such a sweet and unexpected gesture, I couldn't help but be moved.
10. Show up for others. Do you have a friend who is in an art show or on a sports team? Show up and cheer them on. I have given readings of my work before, and I can say — without a doubt — I never would have gotten through it without the encouragement of my friends who took the time to show up for me.
11. Tell someone what they mean to you. Do you know someone who is always going above and beyond what is expected. Someone you can't live without? Tell them. It will make you both feel warm and fuzzy.
12. Invite someone out for coffee. Sometimes something as simple as inviting a friend, or even a stranger, out for coffee can turn your whole day around. It gives you both a chance to unplug, and take a moment to be present with each other.
13. Compliment a driver on their superb parking skills. Personally, nothing makes me more agitated that someone taking up more than one parking space. But, it's occurred to me that I rarely praise good parkers. See someone who expertly squeezed into a tight spot, or simply stayed inside the designated lines? Tell them how awesome they are.
14. Say hello to strangers. I know, this a thing we do in the United States (you might get looked at strangely in Europe). If you pass someone on the street, or in an elevator, and their body language says they're open to interaction, say hello, and maybe even tell them to "have a nice day."
15. Give yourself a break. Practicing kindness also means being kind to yourself. Don't beat yourself up. And if no one has told you lately, you're doing great.