Giving back: What you can do this Random Acts of Kindness Day
From working to jet-setting, and networking to sitting in traffic, life can get so busy these days that it’s often easy to forget what’s really important – and sometimes, loved ones can be left feeling taken for granted. Whether it’s a neglected spouse or a friend you haven’t seen in weeks, these are the people who support you through thick and thin – but a fast-paced lifestyle and an endless to-do list means there is often little time to show them just how much they really mean.
It’s not just those close to you who feel the negative effects of our busy lifestyles, either, with perfect strangers often left bearing the brunt of your bad day or a cancelled meeting. Forgetting to hold the door open for someone or neglecting to give them a smile when you pass in the street might seem like nothing to you, but you never know what they might be going through and how much of a difference that small gesture could have made to their day.
Whist friends, family and the general public could all stand to benefit from you taking a little extra time out to think of them, growing scientific evidence shows that helping others is actually beneficial for your own mental health and wellbeing, too. Doing so can help reduce stress, and improve your physical health – as well as promoting positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness.
These rushes are often followed by longer periods of calm and can eventually lead to improved wellbeing – and helping others improves social support, encourages us to lead a more physically active lifestyle and distracts us from our own problems. Not only that, but it also allows us to engage in a meaningful activity and improve our self-esteem and competence, too. In today’s stressful, ‘always on’ society, we could all do with a bit of a boost in those departments, so deciding to indulge in a spot of altruism is bound to be a win-win for all concerned.
With National Random Acts of Kindness Day coming up on Saturday, 17th February, it’s a great time to re-evaluate your life and the kind of impact you have on others. If you feel that you haven’t had as much time for family as you should have recently thanks to endless meetings and flights to catch, then making a change is simpler than you might think. It’s often the little things that make a difference, and taking just a few moments out of your day to do something thoughtful could really help to brighten up someone else’s.
Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas.
Give the gift of time
The obvious way to make a statement is by giving a show-stopping gift, but often it’s your time that is valued by those close to you far more than material items – so taking the night off so you can be at home with the children, arranging a date with your partner or whisking them away on a dream holiday can all work wonders. Asking a friend how they really are after their recent break-up and being there to listen until they’re all talked out, or turning up at their place with a bouquet of flowers and a willing ear can also have a big impact – just pay a little attention to the needs of those around you and see how your time could be best spent on them.
Leave a small token or gesture to brighten up their day
Even if you haven’t got much time to spare, then a small gesture to show you’ve been thinking about them is often enough to do the trick. Leave them a note on the bathroom mirror wishing them a great day, cook them a nice meal or surprise them with a bunch of flowers or a bottle of their favourite tipple for no reason at all – it’s bound to put a smile on their face, even if you’re not there to see it, and the good feelings you stir in them will mean they’re more likely to pay the good deed forward, too.
Help them to kick a bad habit
Life is full of struggles, and many of us have bad habits we’d like to kick, if only we had the support. If someone in your life is trying to lead a healthier lifestyle then why not fill the fridge with fruit, vegetables and lean protein to help get them started, or offer to join the gym with them to show you’re right behind them? For those trying to give up smoking, suggesting that they try switching to vaping could help them make the transition, and creating a study area for a loved one and supplying them with endless cups of tea could help them to stop procrastinating and concentrate on studying for that dream qualification.
Help a Stranger
Why not show some compassion for a stranger who needs it? Offering to help an elderly person to cross the road or carry their shopping can make a bigger difference to their day than you could possibly imagine, making the thought of going alone to an empty house that little bit easier to bear. Even just stopping to smile and say a quick hello can be enough to put a positive spin on their day – you might be the only person they’ve spoken to all week.
If you do have the time in your life to spread a bit of positivity, then volunteering is a great place to start. Helping others ‘just because’ has been shown to be effective in filling the void of emptiness and easing the unexplained unfulfillment many of us feel in spite of enjoying a successful life – but even better, you could be doing the same for someone else and providing a tiny ray of hope in their lives where before, there was nothing. Volunteering at a local soup kitchen, teaming up with a local charity or becoming a fundraiser are all great places to start – and it’s often in these situations that you meet some of the most inspiring people in life.
Whatever you choose to do this Random Acts of Kindness Day, it’s sure to have a bigger impact than you could possibly imagine – so why not spread the love and encourage others to do the same?