When you’ve endured deep pain and hardship, your heart seems to crack wide open for other people’s suffering too. You wouldn’t want anyone else to go through the same despair, loneliness and aching you’ve experienced. That’s why I believe in the famous words of mother Theresa:
“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
Being a caring person doesn’t just do good, it also feels good. Scientific research suggests that compassion and altruism aren’t just positive for the world, they’re great for your own health too. According to brain-imaging studies, giving to others is as rewarding as receiving. It promotes happiness, social connections and even longevity. What’s more, researchers found that people who were happy because they lived a purposeful life rich in compassion and altruism, had low inflammation levels, which is associated with a reduced risk of illness.
And best of all, generosity and kindness seem to be contagious, spreading to others like a chain reaction. All the more reason to spread a little love with random acts of kindness!
On a side note: I understand that the phrase ‘random acts of kindness’ refers to the inconsistency of the small kind gestures, compared to doing weekly volunteer work or serving your country through your daily work. But when you purposely try to do good on a somewhat regular basis, it’s not that random, right?
Now volunteering in a soup kitchen, participating in a beach clean-up or joining a Big Brother, Big Sister program are all noble causes. But when you’re chronically ill, in financial troubles or overwhelmed from juggling work and home life, you may have the heart of a philanthropist, but not the matching bank account or physical resources. That’s why I made a list of ‘not-so random’ acts of kindness that anyone can do’, even if you’re sick, sad or without money to donate.
Have a look at these 44 acts of kindness to support loved ones, strengthen your community and make the world a nicer place (while boosting your own health too!).
44 Not-So Random Acts of Kindness Anyone Can Do
1. Really listen when someone speaks.
2. Send a care package to a sick loved one. There’s nothing more comforting than to know someone is thinking of you when you feel sick.
3. Volunteer online from the comfort of your own home for the United Nations. Put your language, technology or management skills to good use for peace and development.
4. Keep a bee-friendly garden. With a few simple adjustments, you could also turn your window sill or patio into an inviting oasis for pollinators.
5. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Wouldn’t the world be a much nicer place if we would look beyond someone’s gender, race, religion and appearance and see them for who they really are?
6. Enjoy knitting or crochet? Use some of that back-up yarn to make a comforting blanket for people in need or knit a hat for premature babies.
7. Give a compliment (and mean it).
8. Is your troubled friend feeling overwhelmed? Help them make a realistic to-do list and set priorities.
9. Buy presents from fair-trade stores or nonprofit organizations like World Wildlife Fund. And for that person who already has everything, consider getting an ‘alternative gift’ like school supplies for a child in developing countries.
10. Donate old toys and clothes.
11. Get your sick friend a giant get-well card signed by all their friends.
12. Cook an extra batch of food for a new mum or recently windowed person.
13. Become a patient advocate. Help others and improve healthcare by raising awareness, support or money for your illness.
14. Smile. It may brighten someone’s day – and yours.
15. Provide some happy distraction for a sick friend or grieving family member. Bring a fun movie to watch, play board games together or gift an uplifting book.
16. Leave a book for someone else to find, read and treasure. You could even follow your book wherever it goes through Bookcrossing. And when you buy new books through Better World Books, they donate a book to someone in need.
17. Introduce yourself to someone who’s new to your school or neighborhood. It’s nice to recognize a familiar face or get shown around. And how knows, you might gain a new friend!
18. Write for Rights. Support Amnesty International in their fight for better human rights by joining their global letter-writing campaign.
19. When someone could use your assistance, say “How can I help you concretely?” instead of “Let me know if you need anything.”
20. Plant a tree and help re-green our planet. We all benefit from that.
21. If you have a clean bill of health, consider donating blood.
22. Text your friend to let them know you’re thinking of them.
23. Be patient in traffic.
24. Support small business owners when you can. Independent businesses give neighbourhoods color and keep local communities healthy.
25. Offer a loved one a shoulder to cry on.
26. Generously tip your favorite waiter or barista if you can spare the money.
27. Don’t give unsolicited advice. Most of the time, people just want to feel heard and understood.
28. Are you good at languages, math or STEM? Share your knowledge by tutoring a struggling student. You could even try online tutoring if you’re housebound.
29. Make a non-seasonal ‘advent’ calendar with sweet notes, uplifting quotes, small goodies and sweets so your bestie/sweetheart/mom has something to look forward to each morning.
30. Give someone the benefit of the doubt (without becoming a doormat or ignoring red fags obviously!).
31. Find doable ways to support causes close to your heart, whether that’s animal wellbeing, women’s rights or reducing plastic waste.
32. Call your (grand)parents, or even better, spend some quality time together.
33. Try to keep an open mind by reading an opposite point of view from time to time. Look for commonalities instead of what sets you apart.
34. Bring flowers – or just a single rose – to thank someone who stood by you.
35. Vote with your money. Buy sustainable, ethical and/or fair-trade products while doing your regular (grocery) shopping. Every bit of good that fits within your budget, health and busy schedule helps.
36. Let go of old grudges.
37. Write “Open When” letters to offer your friend encouragement, support or an uplifting word whenever they need it.
38. Hold the door, let someone go in front of you in line or carry your elderly neighbors groceries.
39. Babysit (sleeping) kids for free for a parent who could use a night off.
40. Be a good role model. Teach your kids the importance of kindness.
41. Remember special days in the lives of loved ones – the anniversary of losing a loved one, a remission date or the first holidays alone.
42. Got long hair and looking for a fresh new hairstyle? Consider donating your hair to charity.
43. Sign up to be an organ donor.
44. Go the extra mile. Knowing someone cares enough to make an effort to comfort you can mean the world to anyone who’s sick, sad or lonely.
How do you practice compassion? What’s the best random act of kindness you’ve ever done or received?
If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like 33 Best Ways to Support Your Friend in Need and 14 Ideas for a Comforting Care Package for Your Sick Loved One.