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Random acts of kindness, giving and mental health

kindness mental health Dec 25, 2020

I am writing this blog just a couple of days before Christmas and goodness me, what a year 2020 has been!

Christmas is generally a time of giving gifts and many people this year will be unable to spend time with loved ones and give their presents to them in person. This is really sad as for many people, the joy of giving gifts is in people’s reactions to their surprises.

It is for me anyway.

So, I thought I would spend some time looking into giving and random acts of kindness and consider how they can help our mental health. I also wanted to give you some suggestions so that if you fancied having a go, you can get some ideas.

 

Giving without expecting anything in return

Where a random act of kindness differs from normal present giving, is that you do it without expecting anything in return. So whereas at Christmas you all give each other gifts, the key aspect of a random act of kindness is that you just do it to be kind! You can even do it anonymously just to make someone else happy.

The reason that this can be good for our mental health is that it feels good to do something nice!

Some of the benefits of random acts of kindness are:

  • The person on the receiving end of the act feels loved
  • Both the recipient and the giver get a boost of oxytocin, commonly called the “love hormone”
  • Increase in feelings of strength and energy
  • Being kind can make you feel calmer
  • Those that volunteer experience a huge range of wellbeing benefits from increased confidence to reduced depression.
  • Kindness helps the recipient feel valued and worth more
  • Reduced stress and cortisol levels in those that are more kind

 

Random acts of kindness ideas

Pay for the person in front of you. This can be done on whatever scale suits you and your available income for example in a coffee shop, a restaurant or in a shop. This can be done in whatever way suits you, some people choose to do it for people who struggle to pay at the counter, or you can select someone based on your own criteria. In the UK at the moment, we are all hugely grateful for our key workers who have essentially kept vital services like food shops, hospitals and care homes going throughout the pandemic, so anyone in a uniform could be a great option.

Try and compliment anyone you speak to today. This might be a bit awkward but give it a go, safe compliments are things like admiring a scarf or piece of jewellery. If you are feeling like you want to push yourself then compliment something about their personality, something you personally like about them or something that they are good at. Much of this will depend on how well you know the person that you are complimenting but I guarantee that a kind comment to anyone will be well received.

Just a quick note here that some people are not great at taking compliments and may be embarrassed or even argue with you that they aren’t “that great”. If that happens, don’t be disheartened, the compliment will still have had the desired effect. Just smile at their reaction and move the conversation along.

As most of the UK is in some sort of lockdown or restricted meeting at the moment then consider sending a text or message to a few people with a compliment if you aren’t likely to see anyone for a while.

Donate stuff you don’t need to charity. This is a great way to declutter and do some good at the same time. I would say try and donate things that you think would still be useful to people. This option is great as it allows charities to raise funds by selling your items that they can then use to do whatever work it is that they do!

Smile at people when you can. This is a great one to do that is completely free and very low effort. There are a couple of plus sides to this idea, not only do you make the person you smile at feel better, studies show that it actually makes you feel better too. This can be particularly effective when you are using services like in a shop where the staff are used to being largely ignored or moaned at by customers.

Donate items that you have purchased to food banks or food distribution charities. Many supermarkets have donation points where you can donate food that you have purchased or you can easily find out online where you can donate food. Things like pasta, tins and food in jars are always really helpful but at certain times of the year it can be nice to add a few seasonal items so that the people receiving the food aid can have some treats.

Leave an extra tip if you have had great service. This can be a great one to do, especially in the run up to Christmas when serving staff are particularly busy. This may not be possible this year if you are in an area that, because of COVID-19, has it’s restaurants closed but an idea to take forward perhaps. Again this can be done within your own budget.

Take the time to leave a positive review. It is difficult to explain just how important reviews are to businesses, especially small businesses. Consider leaving a positive review for great service, a podcast you like or for your favourite local restaurant. As a small business owner myself I can honestly tell you that each and everyone of my reviews makes me so genuinely happy so know that there is a person reading those reviews that will have a huge smile for the rest of their day. For a bigger business you could also consider naming the employee if you had a great service as this rewards the employee for their hard work.

Give blood. Not everyone can do this but if you can then make sure you book in to give blood. In the UK recently they have started texting you a few days later to let you know how your donation was used. My most recent donation was used in the Emergency department to treat a motorcyclist who had been in an accident. Unfortunately, you don’t get any more information but at least you helped. This goes a little beyond a random act of kindness as in some cases, you could be genuinely saving a life.

Do something nice for yourself. That’s right include yourself in your random acts of kindness! You also deserve kindness from yourself. Ideas could be to make your favourite meal for yourself, put aside time to read or relax or consider saving for something you have always wanted but could never “justify” the cost.

 

Have a go

These are just a few ideas and if you google “random acts of kindness” then you will get loads more ideas if none of these appeal to you.

My suggestion would be to start with the easiest idea for you and see how you get on with it, most of these ideas can be done at anytime and whenever you feel like it so don’t feel pressured to do them all.

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Discover which common negative thinking patterns you have.

The way we think has a huge impact on our mental health. If you are looking to overcome your anxiety or just improve your mental health then first you need to know what thoughts are making things worse.

This download gives you a list of the most common ways we think negatively. All you need to do is see which ones you do most.

Also, keep an eye on your emails! I will be sending you a really useful video that goes with this exercise.