For 20 years, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has been inspiring us to do a good deed and keep the baton of helping others moving across the globe
You’ve probably experienced it yourself – an unexpected compliment or a surprise treat left on your desk by a work colleague; a call from a friend just when you were feeling at a low ebb; or a terrific squeeze hug from a child.
That burst of positive emotion can be as powerful to give as to receive. International Random Acts of Kindness Week takes place on 9-15 February and is the perfect opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and do something for others each day. Being kind is more than just a nice thing to do, it’s also good for our wellbeing and is scientifically proven to boost our health, happiness and community.
It’s also something we can improve through regular practice. In the US, a movement to encourage kindness has been developed in schools, creating a next generation of generous hearted souls. “Compassion and kindness training in schools can help children learn to be attuned to their own emotions as well as those of others, which may decrease bullying,” says Richie Davidson, neuroscientist and professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin.
Scientifically, kindness has a three-way effect with a positive impact on the recipient, the giver and additionally the passer-by who might chance upon the act in play. The ‘helper’s high’, as it has been dubbed, is beneficial to our health too. “People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease,” says Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness.
Reduced blood pressure, depression and anxiety, along with increased energy levels are some of the additional benefits of helping others.
In fact, the act of helping another person triggers activity in the same areas of our brain that are involved in pleasure and reward.
It’s an experience that 26-year-old Luke Cameron got to enjoy for 365 days last year, when he undertook a year-long challenge to perform a good deed throughout 2014. In honour of a friend who lost her life to cancer, Cameron’s good deeds included giving clothes to charity, making cakes for colleagues, donating food to the homeless, doing his dad’s ironing and even helping an elderly lady to cross the road.
Recording his numerous acts of kindness on his Good Deed Diary blog (thegooddeeddiary.com), he rounded off the challenge at the end of last year by giving £365 to random people in his home town of Cheltenham.
His selfless acts were recognised by Utility Aid, a consultancy which aims to help charities reduce their energy spending. Cameron was offered a new role as national philanthropy manager, to help charities across the UK.
So go on, take the plunge and plan your week’s worth of kind acts – as they say, what goes around, comes around.
Learn more about why helping others helps you feel great too. Here are three great books to read:
- Why Good Things Happen to Good People by Stephen G Post
- The Power of Kindness by PieroFerrucci
- Born to be Good by DacherKeltner
10 ways to spread the love
- Smile at someone you don’t know.
- Eat lunch with someone you don’t normally hang out with at work.
- Tell someone special you love them and give them an extra hug.
- Volunteer to do something in your community – bake a cake for a neighbour or friend
- Brighten someone’s day by sending a digital card to tell them that you think they’re doing great.
- Cook a healthy new dish for you and your family.
- Instead of taking the nearest parking spot, leave it for someone who might need it – a pregnant lady, an elderly person or someone who just requires a little more ease.
- Call a friend who you haven’t seen in a while and offer to take them out to dinner.
- Donate unwanted or unused clothes or household goods to charity.
- When you pay for your morning coffee, treat the person behind you by including the cost of theirs too.