Feeling down or out of sorts? Practicing random acts of kindness may help. A 2023 study from The Ohio State University found that people suffering from depression or anxiety may find relief in doing nice things for others. Another study from the University of Oxford study found that performing acts of kindness over the course of a week boosted happiness.
The good news is that practicing kindness can be done in simple ways that don’t take much time or effort but can pay off in big ways. Here are 20 you can start to put into practice almost any time.
Check in with someone who’s lonely
If you have a friend, acquaintance, or family member who lives alone or who has recently suffered a loss, call or text to check in. Knowing that someone is thinking about you and that your absence matters can help stave off loneliness.
Pick up a few extra groceries
Heading to the grocery store? Offer to shop for a friend, such as someone with a new baby at home or who has an injury, who may have trouble getting there. Or look up your local food bank’s “wish list,” pick up a few of those items, and drop them off on your way home.
Find fun and unusual ways to reuse and recycle
The planet needs a little kindness, too. Some companies like Levi Strauss & Co. and Lego offer to take back their products and recycle them. Or use your crafty side to upcycle unwanted items into gifts. Get more upcycling and recycling ideas here.
Reward an employee’s good service
When you’ve had a good experience with an employee, make sure others know about it. Find the manager or write a note after the fact, mentioning the employee by name. If the company offers a survey for you to fill out after your transaction or customer service call, give the employee high marks if they did a good job. You may even be helping them get a better performance review, raise, or promotion.
Promote a local business
Small businesses are a critical part of the community. If you’ve had a good experience, write a positive review of the business online. And, when you have the opportunity, buy from local small businesses, too.
Tell a friend you care
Go through your contacts list and choose a friend or other loved one with whom you haven’t been in touch lately. Send a text, write a note, or give them a call to tell them how much they mean to you. You’ll make their day, and this can be part of your own personal gratitude practice.
Complete a “compliment challenge”
One of the easiest ways to be kind is to give someone a sincere compliment. Did someone do something to help you? Does a neighbor’s garden make you happy whenever you walk by it? Say so, either in person or be leaving a note. For a compliment to be effective, it should be sincere and specific. For example, “Your positive attitude really lifts my spirits,” or “Every time I walk by your colorful garden, I smile. It’s clear you’ve worked hard to create something so beautiful.” Better yet: challenge yourself to give a certain number of compliments in a day or a week.
Write a glowing letter to the editor
You can also take your praise to a bigger audience. If you know a hometown hero or someone in the community who makes a positive difference, give them a shout-out in your local newspaper by writing a letter to the editor and let everyone know about such positive contributions. You can even write about why you love your community and share your joy with others.
Abandon some art
Join the art abandonment movement, where craft and other artists leave their creations for others to find. They often attach a note explaining that the art was left as a gift and the finder should feel free to take it and enjoy it. Look for art abandonment groups on social media, which often share items that have been left and found.
Let someone go ahead of you
If you’re in line at a store or eatery, let someone go ahead of you, especially if they’re in a hurry. For example, first responders have to eat on the fly and may be called away to attend to an emergency any moment. Let them go first. And if someone behind you at store has just a few items while you have many, wave them ahead of you.
Similarly, if you’re merging in traffic, let someone safely in your lane of traffic. And if you’re able, park farther away from your destination to leave closer parking spots open for someone who might not be able to do so.
Put your spare change to good use
If you have a few extra quarters lying around, leave a few on top of the air machine at your local gas station or at the laundromat. You might help a stranger who needs a few coins.
Leave something better than you found it
Whether you bring a trash bag and gloves with you during your morning walk and pick up litter or organize a cleanup at a local river or park, find ways to leave your surroundings a little bit better. You could also offer to plant some flowers for a neighbor or work in a community garden.
Donate items you don’t need
As you come across gently used or new items you no longer need, find a new home for them. Donate clothing and toys to local charities. There are even organizations that take eyeglasses, medical equipment, and stuffed animals. If you have something in good shape and wish to part with it, chances are, there’s an organization or individual who can use it. If all else fails, many communities have “everything free” groups on social media where members post their items for others to take at no charge.
From the crossing guard to the camp counselor, each day, we’re surrounded by hardworking people who could use a little boost. Bring some water or coffee to someone who would enjoy it. If you know you’re getting a delivery, leave some water and a snack for the delivery driver. Or have a meal delivered to a friend in need.
Be a good shopping cart user
If you see someone unloading their cart at the grocery store, offer to take it for them. And always return your own cart to the appropriate location so it doesn’t roll away and damage cars in the parking lot.
Show some grace
Did someone say something unkind or act in a way that was less than ideal? It may be tempting to snap at them or get into an unpleasant exchange. But, the kinder route, especially if the situation is minor, may be to let it go and practice forgiveness. After all, maybe they were just having a bad day. Of course, maintain healthy boundaries but, as the old adage goes, it’s not necessary to attend every argument to which you’re invited.
Take a photo for someone
If you see a person taking a photo of a loved one or group, offer to snap the picture, allowing them to be in it, too. You may just give the gift of a happy memory.
Write a thank-you note to service providers
Think about how much you rely on everyone from your hair stylist to your mail carrier. Write thank-you notes to the people who help make your everyday life better.
Be prepared for a rainy day
Keep an extra cheap umbrella on hand at home or in your car in case someone needs it on a rainy day.
Looking for more ideas to practice? The Random Acts Foundation publishes a free calendar that lists ideas for daily acts of kindness. Download it at the organization’s website. For more volunteer opportunities and to get ideas and inspiration, visit www.createthegood.org.