If you get to the heart of it (pun intended), Valentine’s Day is all about love. And isn’t that something the world needs more of? Now, we’re not denying the value of long-stemmed roses and Belgian chocolate truffles (we’d never say no to those), but there are also other ways you can spread the love this February. Like, through simple acts of kindness.
Why is it important to do simple and sometimes random acts of kindness, you ask? Well, the really good thing about kindness is that it’s scientifically proven to be good for the giver as well as the receiver. Studies have shown that being kind and giving care can boost your life satisfaction, make you less anxious, and can even help you live longer. Seriously. Everybody wins.
7 Ideas for Simple Acts of Kindness
So what are you waiting for? Here are seven ways you can brighten someone’s day (and your own) with some simple acts of kindness.
1. Help out a stranger—anonymously
Have you heard the idea of “paying it forward”? Instead of paying someone back for something, spread the kindness forward to others. One way is to do this anonymously, to complete strangers. You might just change the course of someone’s day without them even knowing it. And you’ll feel good about it, promise.
Not sure where to start? Here are some examples of random acts of kindness you can try:
- Feed a few coins into someone’s parking meter
- Pay the toll of the driver behind you at the toll booth (…if toll booths are still a thing where you live)
- Pay for the coffee of the person in line behind you
- Leave some change at the laundromat
- Wash a stranger’s windshield at the gas station
- Clear off the car next to yours when it snows
- Leave your newspaper or magazine on the train or bus so someone else can read it after you
- Write positive, encouraging notes and slip them inside library books for strangers to find
2. Take someone out for coffee
All you need is half an hour and a few dollars, and you can totally make someone’s day. We all need human connection. And while throwing an extra five bucks on your card so your fellow caffeine addict can get a coffee is one thing, actually taking the time to sit down with them is even better.
In a 2013 study, researchers gave $10 Starbucks gift cards to a group of (lucky) participants. The people who used their gift card on others reported feeling happier than if they spent it on themselves. The catch? Those heights of happiness only happened if they went to Starbucks with that person.
According to the researchers,
…individuals garner more happiness from prosocial spending when giving provides the opportunity to connect with other people.”
Coffee date, anyone?
3. Forgive (and forget) a debt
One surprisingly simple act of kindness? The act of letting something go. And there are real reasons this works. Research shows that forgiving comes with a side of health benefits that affect everything from your brain (e.g., less stress and lower levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues) to your body (e.g., lower blood pressure and reduced mortality rate).
To reap the stress-busting benefits, give up one of your grievances. Forgive someone of a debt they owe you. You’ll be releasing both of you from a burden. And quite possibly improving your health too. No downsides here.
There are hundreds of organizations and causes that could use your help. Animal shelters. Soup kitchens. Therapeutic riding centers. Charity stores. Donating just a few hours of your time a week can make a huge difference to the work they do.
If giving back isn’t enough on its own, research shows that volunteering is good for your health. Here’s one example: “People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44 percent lower likelihood of dying early,” says Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simpler Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents.
Not sure what’s available in your area? Check out Volunteer Match. You plug in your interests, location, and availability; they give you opportunities that match.
5. Take the time to send positive feedback
Next time a customer service person does a great job of helping you out, ask them their name. Why? So you can do them a random act of kindness. Take the time to send positive feedback telling their company or boss that they made you one happy customer. Sometimes kindness is as simple as giving people the thanks and recognition that they deserve.
And you know what else? Your positive feedback will act as reinforcement, making the staff member more likely to continue being helpful to future customers. Ripple effect for the win.
6. Give someone the gift of time
We’re all busy. We have jobs to do and cats to feed and things to buy (and movies to watch… that counts doesn’t it?) But that’s why the gift of time is so precious. Maybe you can look after your sister’s kids for a few hours so she can have some time to herself. Or let your partner off their household chores for the week because you know they’re particularly busy with work. Or cook your elderly neighbor a meal, just so they can rest for the night.
Another idea? Simply take the time to spend time with the people you love. Research shows that prioritizing quality relationships has big effects on your happiness. So give some hours to let others take a break…or spend those hours with them for double benefits.
7. Listen better
The best simple acts of kindness don’t require a big sacrifice of time or money. Here’s something else you can lend people: your ears.
Reach out to friends or family. Let them know you’re thinking of them. Send them a message, call them, or drop by and ask them how they are. And when they reply, really listen. Show them that you genuinely care.
Listening is a surprisingly difficult skill to master. For a refresher course, watch this TED Talk.
It’s so easy to get caught up in our own lives. In the age of social media, we can get lost in the illusion of connectedness. But here’s a great idea we should all take note of: Let’s be kinder by listening to each other; by connecting with each other; and by forging better and stronger bonds with the people we care about (and who care about us) this Valentine’s Day.
These are some of our favorite ideas for simple acts of kindness, and we hope you’re inspired to try some this Valentine’s Day (or any day, for that matter). Now go get some heart-shaped chocolates and get your giving on.
Your turn: How have you participated in (or benefited from) simple acts of kindness? Tell us more in the comments.
If you like this article, you’ll also like How to Define Gratitude and Use It in 2018
Author: Tania Braukamper
Tania Braukamper is an Australian-born writer and photographer. She believes in curiosity, kindness, and adventure as a state of mind.