Spreading kindness is beneficial for you and the recipients of your kindness. The happiness we feel from giving and receiving kindness promotes general good health. You can spread kindness in many ways, such as by being friendly and generous, and infusing the world and your community with positivity over the holidays and every day. Giving produces a “ripple” or “domino” effect, which can grow into an entire network of positivity. Although it’s helpful when you donate financially or with things like food and clothing, there are also ways you can spread kindness without spending a penny. Offering to babysit or pet sit, giving compliments, and simply minding your manners are just a few ways you can help to make kindness contagious.
Behaving Kindly and Positively in Your Everyday Life
Smile. Look people in the eyes when you give them a grin. This is such a simple way to spread kindness, and it’s free! Be generous with your smile and put feeling into it. Smile at store clerks, waiters and baristas, mail carriers, and other people you come in contact with. This easy gesture can brighten people’s day.
Mind your manners. Good manners are the art of making people feel at ease.Treat others respectfully, as well or even better than you’d wish to be treated. Aim to be cooperative and thoughtful.
- If you borrow things, don’t forget to give them back.
- Try to extend invitations to people who have previously invited you to an event.
- Work on your interpersonal skills. For example, think of the nonverbal communication you may be sending with your body language. Interact with people using open and relaxed body language.
Encourage children. One of the best ways to spread kindness is by starting at home. If you have children, instill in them the importance of being kind to all beings. Read and tell them stories about kindness. Teach them forgiveness and gratitude as well as respect for all others, regardless of race, gender, origin, culture or socio-economic status.
- Discuss your acts of kindness as a family at dinner.
Be compassionate. Be an active listener without judging. Sometimes advice isn’t needed, and others just want to be heard. In order to develop better compassion for others, you should practice self-compassion as well by soothing yourself when you need it. When someone lets you down, remind yourself that people struggle silently for many reasons. Don’t be quick to anger or hold a grudge.
- The other person may be going through something you don’t know about that caused them to be tardy for a meeting, be snappy, or otherwise offend you.Keep in mind that we all make mistakes; there could be any number of reasons for the person’s lack of acceptable behavior.
- Tell yourself at the start of each day that you won’t judge anyone.
- Give people your full attention. Don’t interrupt, act condescending, fiddle with your phone or be otherwise rude.
- For example, you can practice self-compassion by breathing deeply and releasing the tension in your muscles. Hold your hand over your heart. Focus on your breathing and imagine that you’re using it to send warm compassion throughout your body. Think of a positive self-affirmation, such as “Kindness is a strength. You are kind and capable.”
Express gratitude. Tip generously when you can.Tell your loved ones why you’re grateful for them. Be appreciative and express your respect and admiration for others.
- Try telling someone in your life, “You inspire me to be a better person through your…” List specific things you appreciate about that person. If you don’t feel comfortable saying it in person, tell them through a note or online message.
Give compliments. When you think something nice about someone else, don’t keep it to yourself – say it! You can also do this online by “liking” people’s posts and tweeting good words to people.
- For instance, like ten things on someone’s Facebook profile or Instagram feed. Repeat the favor for others, for example, by making a habit of doing this every Sunday.
- Try saying, “What a nice outfit!”
Refrain from negativity. Be mindful of not only your words, but also your thoughts. Thinking positively can help you approach the world with kindness. Start a day at a time, trying not to speak negatively. You may slip up, but stick with it until it becomes second nature for you to avoid negative words and deflect negative thoughts.
Drive courteously. Put safety first, and then consider being a polite driver. Use your turn signals when you’re supposed to, and use your horn sparingly – only when you need to alert someone to your presence. Keep distance between your car and the one in front of you. Try not to block other people’s access while you’re sitting in traffic. Don’t try to cut off a line of cars by using the breakdown lane or a turning lane to skip ahead in traffic.
- Avoid blocking driveways, intersections, entrances and exits while traffic is stalled. Don’t block the passing lane for an unreasonable amount of time.
- Road rage is illegal, dangerous, and spreads negative emotions like stress and anger. The DMV suggests that if you find yourself having a strong emotional reaction, breathe deeply, pull over, put some calming music on, and remind yourself that you have complete control over your own intentions.
Be a kind shopper. Open and hold doors for people. Use shopping carts courteously. Always keep your cart to the side of the aisle so that people can get around you without having to wait for you to move. Offer your help if you see someone with their hands full, for instance an elderly person with a lot of items to load in their vehicle. If you see someone else vying for the same parking space, let them have it. Planning a little extra time can make it less stressful when you have to search for a parking spot or wait in store lines.
- If you are walking towards a store and see someone looking for a shopping cart corral, offer to walk the cart back into the store. You can use the cart yourself and they don’t have to find a cart return.
- If you want to use your phone, try text messaging instead of talking so that you don’t bother others around you. If you encounter rudeness, match it with kindness and patience.
- Use pleasantries like “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” Don’t get angry with salesclerks if an advertised product is out of stock. If you need to discuss it with an employee, ask for a manager, and present your problem clearly and calmly.
- Don’t forget to exercise caution. If you’re in an isolated area like a parking lot empty of people, or if something feels off, don’t approach a stranger even if they’re crying for help. Go to a populated area and relay that the person needs help if they appear to be injured.
Forgive people. You can give kindness an edge over negativity by refusing to hold onto anger and resentment. Forgiveness is something you should do for your own well-being, and you can lead others by example through living a more positive life. You can tell the other person that you’ve forgiven them, or just say the words “I forgive you” aloud to yourself along with the reasons why you’re forgiving that person. You may be surprised at how freeing it feels!
- Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you’re excusing their actions or that you’re forgetting the incident ever happened. It doesn’t make you a pushover; it means you’re exercising control over keeping negativity out of your life.
- If someone is indebted to you, consider forgiving their debt, if possible.
- If someone witnesses you letting a grievance go and expresses surprise about it, try saying, “I’ve decided to be a forgiver. You wouldn’t believe how much more peaceful my life has become because of it!”
Post something inspirational on social media. You never know when someone may need a pick-me-up and your simple gesture can reach them. Choose an uplifting quote or verse. You can put it directly on your timeline on a site like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Or, if you notice someone who seems down, send them the post directly along with an inspirational message.
- Try saying something encouraging and nonjudgmental, like “I saw this verse and thought of you and your strength in dealing with difficulty.”
Spreading Kindness by Volunteering Your Time
Give free advice about something you’re good at. Think about what your skills are, whether they are work-related or hobby-based. If you know someone who could use the advice, seek them out. Otherwise, provide your advice on wikiHow and/or an online forum.
- Search for online forums where the topic you’re an expert at is being discussed. You can contribute advice to the forum anonymously if desired.
Babysit or pet sit. If you know someone who could use a babysitter or pet sitter, offer your services. For example, to a friend, neighbor or family member. You can also offer to walk someone’s dog.
- Try saying, “If you ever need a babysitter, I’m happy to help free of charge!”
Clear someone’s driveway. If you live in an area that gets snow, the next time you are out shoveling or snowboarding, consider doing one or more of your neighbor’s driveways as well. Try to clear the paths to their doors and their sidewalks also. Or, load your gear in the car and drive to a friend or family member’s house and clear their driveway for them.
Volunteer for a nonprofit. Find a charity that means a lot to you and donate your time by volunteering. Look on their website for information about volunteering, or email them to ask how you might be able to help.
- If you don’t have time to volunteer, consider making a financial donation instead. You may be able to deduct it on your income taxes! There are also sites you can do your ordinary shopping through, such as Amazon Smile, who will donate a portion of your purchase to the charity of your choice.
- If you’re struggling with which charity to give to, ask yourself some questions. What values are important to you? What are you truly passionate about? Are there any particular current issues that matter to you the most? Do you envision a local or global impact from your contribution?
- Volunteer your professional services pro bono. Visit https://www.taprootplus.org/ to offer your help.
- Share a charity on social media by posting a link to their information and/or a news article on how they’re helping to spread kindness.
Volunteer to help feed the needy. Sign up to volunteer at a soup kitchen, local church or a campaign like Meal on Wheels. Locate soup kitchens near you by going to a search engine and typing in “find a soup kitchen.” You should get a list back of local results. Alternately, visit HomelessShelterDirectory.org. Call or visit the soup kitchen’s website to get more details about volunteering.
- The Meals on Wheels program relies on volunteers to deliver meals to elderly people who are homebound or otherwise can’t prepare their own meals. You can learn more at http://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/take-action/volunteer.
Tutor students. Offer your services to help young people with reading. Look for local literacy volunteer organizations by visiting a search engine and entering the name of your state with the words “Literacy Volunteers.” If you’re interested in tutoring in another subject, try searching for that subject under your state on a site like volunteermatch.org.
Spreading Kindness by Donating and Gifting
- Try saying, “I’d like to pay for the person behind me. Could you add it to my bill?” You could also request that the cashier relays a message, such as, “Please pay it forward someday!”
- If you’re uneasy about how much the bill might be, contribute a specific amount instead. For instance, try saying, “Here is ten dollars towards the bill of the person behind me.” If the cashier mentions there will be change, tell them to keep it in their tip jar, if they have one, or ask them to give it back to person behind you.
- Remember to take safety precautions when meeting with strangers from the classifieds. You can read more about that at https://www.craigslist.org/about/safety
Donate food to the hungry. Donate canned food or other acceptable items to a food bank. You can organize a drive by getting friends and family together and asking them to bring items.
- Find food banks near you at http://www.FeedingAmerica.org or http://www.FoodPantries.org.
Give away used clothing and shoes. Find a local church, Goodwill or other nonprofit. Another way to do this is look online for a drop-off box near you that accepts such items.
Send holiday cards or treats. Purchase holiday cards at a supermarket or stationary store and send some delightful snail mail to your loved ones. Another idea for spreading kindness over the holidays is delivering treats through a service or in person.
- There are many companies that offer mail order gifts of edible items such as Christmas cookies, nuts and other goodies. Consider ordering a box to arrive as a surprise for some of the people you know. Alternately, you can show up on their doorstep when you know they’ll be home, with your family and a box of homemade sweets. Ring the doorbell, and when they answer, sing one or two of your favorite carols!
Leave anonymous gifts in public areas. You can improvise with your own ideas of anonymous gifts, but a couple ideas to consider are stamps or books. Consider carrying a pack of sticky notes and a pen with you for the purpose of acts of kindness.
- Occasionally when you go to the post office to buy stamps, purchase extra and leave them in or beside the machine.
- Take a good book you’re willing to part with and leave it in a public place with a note for someone else to enjoy it.
- Write something like, “This is for you. Please take it and try to pass on act of kindness to someone else.”
Bring flowers to a nursing home. A good way to do this is to buy or make two to four bouquets (or more). Select a nursing home from a local directory, like the yellow pages. When you arrive at the nursing home, find a staff member. Give one bouquet of flowers to them to keep, and ask them to give the other bouquets to residents who could use cheering up. This technique utilizes the rule of reciprocity, also called, “the norm of reciprocity.”
- If the staff member asks why you’ve given them flowers, just say, “It’s a ‘thank you’ for passing these out.” If you prefer not to do this in person, you can have a flower delivery company send bouquets with a similar note.
- The rule of reciprocity means that the person you are generous to is likely to feel obliged to do you a favor in return. In this case, since you’re giving a bouquet to a staff member as well, you increase the likelihood that they will pass the kindness on well, by thinking carefully about which residents would most benefit from the gift.
- Alternately, you can bring other types of gifts besides flowers, such as homemade knitted scarves.
Drop off items at a children’s hospital. Find a local children’s hospital in a directory. Call ahead first or visit the hospital’s website to find out where you should bring the gifts and if there are any guidelines about what you can give. Prepare some items you think kids would enjoy, such as kids’ craft sets, stuffed animals, or quilts.
Set up a free coffee or hot cocoa stand. This is a great activity you can do with kids. Set it up as you might a lemonade stand, with a table, chairs, and a large sign. You can opt to serve coffee, hot chocolate, or both.
- Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather. This is a nice way to spread kindness over the holidays!
- Write on the sign, “FREE Coffee and Hot Cocoa!” Consider adding to the sign or somewhere at your table an advisory such as: “Warning: beverages may be very hot.”
- Items you may need are thermoses, coffee and/or hot chocolate, disposable coffee cups with lids, marshmallows, packs of sugar or artificial sweetener, packs of flavored or unflavored creamers, and stirrers.