Wherever you live, you may have noticed people in your community, city, or even your block being a bit more thoughtful, a little more kind. One of the upsides of this global crisis is that even though we are following physical distancing mandates, a sense of community and caring is taking hold. Giving to others answers our need for human connection — and it’s a powerful form of self-care as well.
Kindness isn’t just a nice-to-have — science shows being kind has a positive impact on our well-being. A recent study published in the Journal of Social Psychology suggests that committing acts of kindness towards our close connections, our acquaintances, toward ourselves — and even observing acts of kindness — have equally positive effects on our happiness. And kindness can strengthen our immune system and decrease our stress, which is enormously important right now, Jennfier Ramlo, Ph.D., an L.A.-based clinical psychologist, tells Thrive. Kindness is contagious, too. “When someone is kind to you, the positive experience that comes from that can encourage you to practice kindness with others,” she says.
Interestingly, as Ramlo points out, “the act of self-quarantining itself is an act of kindness, because it’s about being thoughtful to others to limit the spread of the virus.”
Here are seven other ways to make a difference right now by being kind.
Be kind at home
Offering to make a cup of tea for a family member, making someone’s favorite meal, or just expressing how much you care for a loved one can brighten their day, especially if they are feeling sad or anxious. Being thoughtful can also make a difference to the atmosphere at home.
Connect with people when you are out
Even though we need to keep a safe distance, we can acknowledge and connect with people we come across on a walk, by smiling (or nodding if you’re wearing a mask) and exchanging good wishes. When out shopping for food, says Ramlo, it is nice to engage in a short conversation and perhaps share some laughter together. “This simple act leaves the giver feeling appreciated,” she adds, “and the receiver feeling as though they are being seen.”
Check up regularly on people living alone and the elderly
Sometimes we forget the challenges people are facing under lockdown. People who live alone, and elderly people who are self-quarantining, can get lonely or even depressed, says Ramlo. So reaching out with a phone call, email, or text is important. “Kindness promotes interconnectedness within a community and can help people feel less lonely,” says Ramlo. If you can afford it, buy someone a gift certificate to a restaurant that is still offering a delivery service — doubling the kind gesture by supporting local businesses.
Be kind creatively
Sending funny or inspirational cards and letters can help you connect with loved ones you can’t see in person right now. Even sending funny memes can show people you’re thinking of them. Small public offerings of kindness can make a difference in someone’s day too. For instance, Ramlo says, “I noticed two children took colored chalk and wrote encouraging messages along the sidewalk, like: ‘Say hello to your neighbor when passing them six feet away.’” You can even close your eyes and send positive thoughts to family members. There is evidence that thinking positively contributes to our well-being.
You don’t have to be a counselor or a therapist to listen intently and with empathy. With so much fear and anxiety swirling, lending an ear can be supportive. Practice the art of listening without interrupting and without thinking you need to offer advice. Just letting the person express their feelings, and knowing that you are there for them, is a valuable and kind act.
Express gratitude to those on the front lines
Saying “thank you” and spending an extra moment expressing how grateful we are to first responders, delivery workers, and those serving us in supermarkets and pharmacies shows them we really care. They are putting themselves at risk to make our lives better. Letting them know we truly appreciate what they’re doing can make their day a little brighter, too.
Be kind to yourself
Taking time to connect with what really matters and brings us joy can also be beneficial. Acknowledging and honoring whatever feelings we’re having about the crisis can improve our mental health during a monumentally anxious time. At moments like this, extending a little extra kindness to ourselves is just as vital as being kind to others.