Did you know that kindness, and altruism, exist in a nourishing cycle? It seems the more kind and generous we are to others, the happier we are in return. In honour of World Smile Day on October 5, we're sharing nine random acts of kindness for you to share your smile and happiness with the world.
A study in 2010 in Britain measured the impact of performing acts of kindness on the participants' overall life satisfaction. The group which performed a daily act of kindness for 10 days reported a significant boost in happiness, as did a group that was asked to try something new each day for 10 days. It seems that both acts of kindness, and new and novel activities can effect our level of happiness significantly. So, we've combined the two for you with these nine little random acts of kindness to brighten not only your day, but positively affect the ones of people around you!
1. Chalk up the Street
Chalk is cheap. It's playful, erasable and with a pinch of kindness, it can bring a smile to the streets of your beloved community. Have fun co-creating your own neighbourhood and adding a splash of kindness to the concrete jungle. A simple "look up!", "smile, you're doing great", "pause, take a deep breath", or "you are beautiful!" can bring a smile to some of your neighbours. Get creative, buy the pack with all the colours, and have fun sprinkling rainbows, smiley faces and your best jokes over the streets.
Did you know that engaging in altruistic behaviours - ones which help others in need - lights up areas of the brain associated with pleasure and reward? This is the region that lights up similarly when we eat chocolate or have sex, so you know it's good for you! Look up some local charities, associations or hospitals in your area with a volunteer program. If you can't find anything of interest, have you thought about sharing your skills with local groups who would love to exchange knowledge with you? There are alternative schools, aged care facilities, centres for LGBTIQ, minorities and refugees as well as community groups on sites like meetup.comwho would love to share and learn with you.
3. Secret love letter
Have you ever thought of writing a love note of kindness to someone you've never met? Have you ever thought about how it could make someone feel, to pull out a book at a library or store and read a heartfelt message of hope, joy, love or optimism hidden in its pages? Grab your overcoat and head into town incognito and spread your love notes in hidden places for strangers to find. Top tip, why not leave some messages of thanks and positivity for the mothers who are raising the next generation in parenting books or places near playgrounds - make a mother smile and you'll have the next generation smiling back at you.
4. Tell someone you love them
Sometimes its the people closest to us who we feel the most estranged from, or who could really benefit from sharing a smile with us. Have a family, partner, pet or mirror? Tell them you love them, in a language and way that really feels like an outward expression of your love. Love is expressed in different languages, with words, actions, gestures, touch. Why not think of a different way to express your love, by making a gift, writing a letter, cooking food or creating a piece of art? It's the gesture and the intention which counts, and will leave you both feeling loved up and glorious.
5. Pay it forward
There is a tradition from Napoli, Italy called "café sospeso", meaning coffee suspended. It's the act of paying for two coffees yet drinking only one yourself, leaving the second for a stranger to enjoy. If you've ever stood in a line at a Pret a Manger at 8.30am you know you're going to impact the entire day of the person behind you if you paid for their coffee without a word. If you can afford it (or afford to skip your next coffee) to bring unexpected joy to another, we think you'll feel even better than you would drinking a double espresso after a sleepless night - or close to it! Not a coffee fan? Try it with a bus ticket - we're sure you'll get the same smile and elevated feeling.
6. Share a compliment
See the man with the great haircut? The girl in a beautiful dress? Or child wearing whatever costume they felt entirely justified to wear to the supermarket? Tell them. Share your appreciation for a stranger openly and give them that compliment that's coming singing from your heart. We don't have to keep spontaneous kind thoughts and words to ourselves. And we have no idea the impact these words will have on the other.
7. Donate your goods
Do something kind for yourself and others - clean out your clutter and donate it somewhere someone else will really appreciate it. There a tonnes of charities and organisations who would love your used and loved goods. Furniture, clothes and toys are appreciated at charity stores, and used blankets are always needed at animal shelters, especially as the weather starts to cool down!
8. Pick it up!
When you see that piece of litter on the ground, don't think twice just pick it up. Not only is this your act of kindness to the Earth, you might even inspire someone else with your 'no-fuss' act of collective responsibility. You can even carry a spare trash bag (preferrably non-plastic) to collect things on your walk to work or around one of your favourite natural places, leaving it a little greener and cleaner for all us here today and the generations of tomorrow. If you're feeling inspired, why not join a community clean up day, or a local ecological collective. Meet new like-minded people and feel the high of collective kindness.
9. It all starts with hello...
Some of the loneliest people are those surrounded by many. People who are surviving on the streets, have spoken of their great loneliness and desire for social interaction as so many walk past them without wanting to make eye contact. Have you noticed the quietest, or the loudest, person in the room and wondered how they are doing? How about the mother with the crying toddler - could you offer her a non-judgemental smile and a helping hand? Or the neighbour you see in the street but have never gotten to know? Jump outside of your comfort zone and make your random act of kindness the first step towards a friendship. Speak to someone new, and shorten the distance between you and the family around you who, despite the greatest of odds, just happen to be on Earth at the exact same place and time as you.
Doing good feels good. And when we feel good, we do more good. This has to be one of the most positive feedback loops and cyclical happenings in our lives. We wish you and all around you the brightest smiles on this World Smile Day.