Random acts of kindness (RAK) are an unexpected act of charity or helpfulness, often done for a stranger: selfless acts that are committed unexpectedly, without prompting and with no apparent ulterior motive.
Unlike emotions such as happiness, or a feeling like gratitude, kindness is mostly a behaviour or action, with the capacity to increase a sense of wellbeing, promote gratitude, empathy and compassion, which in turn, lead to a sense of interconnectedness with others. When you feel connected with others, you lessen alienation and you enhance the sense that we are more similar than dissimilar in our experiences. It is potent in strengthening a sense of community and belonging.
Kindness reduces stress, boosts our immune systems, and helps reduce negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and depression. People that are more kind have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population.
Kindness releases positivity. We feel better and the recipients of our acts feel better, which then makes them more likely to be kind to other people. It releases neurochemicals that result in a sense of well-being. In fact, the neural circuits that are involved in chemical “highs” are the same ones activated by kindness.
Kindness lowers blood pressure. It creates emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin which then causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels, reducing blood pressure.
Dopamine, serotonin and endogenous opioids (the “feel good” fam of natural drugs) are released by kind behavior and act in a similar way as a medical antidepressant.
One act of small kindness can release an enormous chain of positive events. The miracle of kindness is that it is contagious and something we should all want to pass on, pay forward and spread to others, so let’s do it!
Why not try some of the following:
- Let someone cut in front of you in traffic (without slamming your palm on the horn and using the F word!)
- Stop to talk with an elderly neighbor or invite them over for dinner. (You’re gonna be that person someday so get some oldie karma going now!)
- Give a gift certificate for a dinner out to a couple who you know are facing hard times. (no, Macca’s doesn’t cut it.)
- When in line to get your morning coffee, pay for the person behind you or give that free drink on your loyalty card to them.
- Donate items in your home that you haven’t used in the past year (but not the stuff in your pantry that you can sing happy birthday to.)
- When parking your car, leave a note to a fellow car driver to let them know that they did an amazing job at parking (Maybs along the lines of “Well done dufus. You managed to get it between the lines this time!)
- Smile genuinely at 5 strangers throughout your day (Not that loopy cray, cray smile – the warm, caring one.)
- Hold the door open for the person behind you.
- Buy food, warm clothes, and blankets for someone who is currently homeless.
- Compliment a stranger.
- Remind people of their worth.
- Let people know you appreciate them.
- Be extra nice and helpful to someone you know is having a hard time.
If you are looking for more ideas for RAK’s, click here. Let’s get that dopamine pumping!