A new normal.
For the last week, I’ve been writing about various micro habits that you can practice to build your resilience to help you manage your stress levels and sleep better. I’ve saved the best for last.
Random Acts of Kindness.
Why is this important? If you’ve been following me or you are a student of positive psychology, you’ve probably heard about the human tendency for negativity. Humans have a built-in negativity bias, which from an evolutionary perspective, keeps us alive.
And from today’s perspective contributes to undue stress and anxiety. Along with this tendency for negativity is a compounding factor that humans tend to get used to the good things in life.
If it’s good — at first it makes us happy and then we slowly begin to accept, expect and even forget what’s good. We adapt to do the good things in life, and so when something bad happens, it’s super easy to forget or overlook ALL the good stuff.
You guessed it! Random Acts of Kindness.
Doing nice things for other people — altruistic things done without any expectation of a return favor makes us feel happy. It also has the effect of making us feel more connected to those around us — even if we don’t see or know the person that we’ve helped.
Drive Through Coffee Line
One of the best examples of this ability for random acts of kindness to create good vibes is the pay it forward coffee purchase. I don’t know precisely when this idea got its start, but it’s been ten years since the first time a random person bought my coffee.
When my first son was a baby and a toddler, I found my self at home as a stay-at-home mom. I’d planned to go back to work, but my son developed viral-induced asthma, and so every time we tried to put him in daycare, he got sick, and I got to stay home.
After a few months of me trying to work and mostly staying home with a sick kid, I gave up. And I stayed home. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the coping skills I have now, and I found myself reasonably depressed. One day I was waiting in the drive-through line at Starbucks. When I pulled up to the window, the car in front of me had bought my coffee. I felt like I’d won the lottery!
A stranger — without even knowing if I was suffering or not — had passed on a random act of kindness. It was beautiful. And, not only did it make me smile, but it also brought Joy to the barista, who’d gotten a tip out of the transaction too.
What can you do?
Buy a meal for a homeless person.
Buy the groceries for the person in line behind you.
Send a delivery of donuts or a healthy snack to your local hospital or health care workers.
Donate in the name of someone who like/love/admire and ask for the thank you note to be sent to them.
Make a lasagna or other easy to bake/reheat dinner and leave it for a neighbor.
Create a cookie, cake or soup recipe in a jar with instructions and deliver to your neighbors with kids (something that they need to cook — link to 30 recipe ideas).
Send a random text message or email to someone that has touched you in the past — remind them of the kindness they once paid you and thank them!
Offer to mow the lawn or do another outdoor chore for an elderly neighbor.
Offer to run an errand for your neighborhood group — if you are making a run to the store or the farmers market — let your neighbors know.
Hire an artist to paint a picture or draw an illustration and send it to a friend or family member that you cannot currently visit.
Send an Easter, Passover, or Happy Spring Card!
Buy a gas card or coffee shop card and give it to a neighbor or friend who works in essential services.
Make it a game or a challenge. Why don’t we all decide to do something nice “random” every day for the next 30 days? Write down what you do in your journal or share it with your community. Encourage others to do the same!
Homebound or budget restrained?
Random acts of kindness or simple acts of kindness do not require that you spend money or leave your house. Simply think about what you can do differently to be kind to yourself and to those you interact with during the day.
Can you check-in with someone else? Can you send a kind message? Whatever you do, think about it and write it down in a journal at the end of the day.
The more we focus on doing kind things, the better we feel, and the more we think about (remember them), we feel even better!
You might need to be physically distant from more people than you wish right now, but you can still connect with humanity.