Being kind to others has been proven to make us happier – but how can we build kindness into our daily routines?
No matter how small the act of kindness, whether it’s giving up your time to volunteer, doing an elderly neighbour’s shopping or simply helping someone with heavy luggage, there’s no denying that you feel a smile spreading across your face afterwards.
Why does being kind make us happy?
“Kindness leads to the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin and happiness hormone serotonin, meaning we get a rush of good feelings when we practice being kind,” says Jo Howarth, founder of The Happiness Club.
Being kind has also been found to increase our sense of satisfaction with life, as well as decreasing stress and anxiety. “It is a huge part of building emotional resilience,” Jo says. “The more we practice kindness, generally the happier we are.”
Supporting others helps us feel connected and generally more positive. “There is always the opportunity to do a bit of good in the world,” says Life Coach Directory member Merrisha Gordon. “We can all take the opportunity to spread more kindness in the world, regardless of our own individual situation,” she adds.
Kindness isn’t all about doing something for others though, it can be as simple as not returning aggression when someone is rude to us. We’ve all been there – a fellow commuter shoves past you on the way to work, and the instinct is to be rude back to them.
Challenge this, suggests transformational coach Aysha Bell. “If someone pushes past you, you don’t need to push back,” she says. “You can just smile. If you have it in you to be kind back rather than returning their aggression, do that.
“Normally, nine times out of 10, the person will be really grateful you didn’t push them back, and you smiled at them. You can change the whole cycle of your day and their day.”
Helping others can also bring light into your life during dark times, as Asyha, who has experienced depression, found out: “At my lowest point, the only thing that made me feel good was to help other people. I volunteered with homeless people in terrible situations, and it made me go home and realise that although I wasn’t doing great, I was actually quite lucky.”
23 daily acts of kindness to try today
1. Volunteer with a charity
Lifestyle vlogger Kate Snooks volunteers weekly with Food Cycle, a charity whose mission is to reduce loneliness, hunger and food waste by providing three-course meals with donated surplus produce for those in need.
“I leave each volunteering session feeling so much happier, knowing that I have helped make some people’s lives a little easier and that they have had a good evening chatting to people and enjoying food,” Katie says.
“That feeling of knowing I have helped fuels me to continue dedicating my time to volunteering and improves my mental health – talking to the guests, hearing their stories, engaging with my community and the other volunteers is so rewarding.”
2. Send a text
Texting or emailing someone might not feel like much – most of us do it each day anyway, but it can make all the difference. “Message someone you love simply to tell them you love them,” says Jo.
“I have made a habit of doing this simple act in my life and it boosts me every time. I love telling the people close to me that I love them, it makes me feel amazing to do it because I know it makes them feel amazing to hear it.”
3. Give compliments
“Giving compliments can have a profound effect on both the giver and the receiver,” says Jo. “It’s really simple to do and it costs absolutely nothing.”
“I recently complimented a woman trying on a coat in a shop,” says Jo. “She looked really lovely in it, so I told her. The smile that beamed across her face was just gorgeous and it gave me a lovely warm glow to think that my words had made that happen.
“My daughter was with me and said: ‘I heard what you said to that lady, you’re so lovely,’ and receiving that kind comment from my daughter made ME smile. In the space of five minutes, I was both the giver and the receiver of kindness and both gave me a lovely boost.”
4. Donate to charity
“Have a good clear out on a regular basis and donate your unwanted or unused things to charity,” suggests Jo. “It always gives my daughters and I a good feeling when we think about the people who will benefit from using the things they’ve grown out of AND the people who will benefit from the good work that the charity itself does.”
5. Give your time
In difficult financial times it’s understandable not to want to part with cash, but donating your time, be it helping at a food bank, joining a mentoring scheme or volunteering, will give you that coveted warm fuzzy feeling.
HELLO!’s wellness columnist Hattie MacAndrews spent time volunteering with the NHS during the pandemic and felt true purpose for the first time in her life.
“I realised how good it feels to do good. Volunteering during the first lockdown to help get face shields to those who needed them was a different level of feel-good.”
Beauty editor Lauren Ezekiel gave her time during the pandemic too, and found it lifted her spirits. “At the start of the pandemic I like many others felt a bit useless, I wasn’t working at the time and this gave me the opportunity to consider offering my help where I could.
“I started by responding to a Facebook plea from a nurse at my local hospital for hand cream and after sending a few emails one of my contacts delivered the goods. This spurred me on to see what else I could get from my friends and contacts in the beauty industry. By the end of the first week, I was offered nearly 25k products and this is how I started WECU2020, a scheme which gave beauty goodies to those in need.
“Throughout this whole period, every single volunteer said their involvement provided a lifeline through lockdown, many had never volunteered before but the community spirit and positivity inspired them to continue volunteering long after the pandemic. Seeing the joy from the NHS staff and feeling like you were spreading a bit of happiness and gratitude was worth every late night and long day.
“By volunteering, I felt like my purpose grew as well as my confidence and self-esteem. Now I always recommend volunteering if you’re feeling lost or a bit low as it’s harder to feel worthless when you’re being worthy.”
6. Donate blood
Giving blood is a fantastic, free way to show kindness to others, and it’s something HELLO!’s homes editor Rachel Avery does regularly.
“I’ve been a blood donor for years now, and I get a real sense of joy knowing that I’ve helped someone in their hour of need,” she says. “Blood.co.uk even texts you afterwards to tell you where your blood has ended up. It’s not completely selfless though, the post donation biscuits make it so worthwhile!”
7. Pay kindness forward
“When you experience kindness from someone else, make a commitment to pay that kindness forward,” says Jo. “You could pay for someone else’s cup of tea, help someone who is lost, hold a door open for someone or let someone pull out in traffic.
“Pay the kindness you have received forward purposely and consciously acknowledge that’s what you’re doing as you do it, savour that feeling that floods through your body when you do.”
8. Offer to babysit
If you have friends or family who you know are in need of a day or night off, offer to babysit for them. The gesture will mean a lot, and their me-time should make them worlds happier too!
9. Send a card
Most of us only get junk mail and bills through the letterbox, so a heartfelt card will be a lovely surprise for your friend to receive in the post – they’ll know you’re thinking of them, and the happiness hit will refresh every time they see the card on their windowsill.
10. Make someone dinner
If you know someone is having a hard time, pop around with dinner made for them. Something they can easily reheat is perfect if they don’t want to eat right away is a lovely gesture.
11. Buy a coffee for someone in need
Next time your coffee shop loyalty card is full, use it to buy a coffee for someone in need – they’re sure to appreciate the gesture.
12. Offer friends a lift home
If a friend is arriving home on the train late, offer to pick them up from the station. A warm car is also a lovelier option than the bus or a walk home – and cheaper than a taxi!
13. Run a bath
If you know your partner, housemate or children have had a hard day, take the time to run them a bath with bubbles for them to sink into at the end of the day. They’ll appreciate it all the more not having to run the bath themselves.
14. Help someone tidy up
After a party or gathering ends, help the host tidy up – they’ll remember the kind gesture more than you bringing a bottle along to the occasion.
15. Help someone at the station
If you see someone struggling with bags or a buggy at the station, offer to help them with their load.
16. Give someone your parking ticket
If you don’t need your parking ticket, give it to someone else in the car park, or pop it back in the machine for the next person to find – everyone loves saving money on parking!
17. Offer your seat on the train
Even if your fellow passenger isn’t pregnant or in need, everyone likes to be offered a seat, and it’s an easy way to improve someone else’s commute – and maybe get their day off to a good start.
18. Let someone go ahead of you in the queue
If you’re not in a rush, letting someone check out ahead of you at the supermarket is a selfless gesture sure to mean a lot to someone who is in a hurry.
19. Offer directions
If you see someone looking lost, don’t wait for them to ask for help – offer them directions to their destination.
20. Hold the door open
Or hold the lift – this tiny gesture is sure to make a stranger smile.
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21. Help with a beach clean
If you live near the beach, head to the shoreline with a binbag and clear up rubbish from the sand – making the beach beautiful is the ultimate feel-good activity and you’re helping the environment too!
22. Help a friend move house
Moving is one of those life events that is always stressful, but offering to help a friend, whether it’s packing up their things or cleaning their house with them, or the physical side of moving, they’ll be so grateful for your kindness.
23. Be kind to you
Lastly, remember to be kind to yourself, notes Merrisha. “Sometimes life throws us a curveball and on those days in particular being kind to yourself is a priority.
“Speak kind words to yourself in the mirror if you need them, leave post it notes to yourself around the house as a reminder of the person you are, and remember the need to set boundaries as a way of protecting your time. Kindness starts with you first.”