Hugging Strangers and 8 Other Ways to Spread Kindness
NOT DOING THINGS
As World Kindness Day approaches (mark your calendars for November 13th!), it’s time to think about ways you can make a positive mark on this planet. Not only does spreading kindness benefit others, but being thoughtful and compassionate actually creates positive effects for you, too. People who are kind have fewer negative emotions, better health, better sleep, and better relationships. As far as downsides go, we can’t find any!
While hugging a stranger is at the top of our list as a way to spread love, here are 7 other random acts of kindness you can try today.
1. Hug a stranger
Who doesn’t love a good hug? While you may feel more comfortable hugging someone you already know, hugging a stranger can provide both of you with feel-good hormones. You may be someone who is content with standing on a busy street corner holding up a “Free Hugs” sign, or you may want to just hug that neighbor or coworker you don’t quite know so well yet. Either way, hugs can make us healthier and happier. A nice tight squeeze can flood your body with oxytocin, the “love hormone”. Increased levels of oxytocin are linked to lower blood pressure and reduced stress. Studies have also shown that perpetual huggers are less likely to get sick than non-huggers. As our culture becomes more chronically touch-deprived, hugging is a great way to spread kindness, happiness, and better health to those around you.
Simply smiling is an easy and practical way to make others feel better. A quick smile to your barista, your Uber driver, or your mailman can make someone’s day. Just like hugs, smiling can benefit both you and the recipient of your grin. People who show their pearly whites more often tend to be happier, more positive, and less stressed.
Even if you’re not feeling extremely joyful at the time, putting a smile on your face can actually train your brain to create more positive emotions. Moving our facial muscles into a smiley face even when you feel like frowning can create an immediate mood-booster. In this case, faking it is not a bad idea!
3. Write you a thank-you card
Expressing gratitude is one of the simplest ways to spread kindness. Whether it’s saying thanks for a gift or just a heartfelt message of appreciation for someone, the effects of being grateful have been studied again and again. Acknowledging a coworker for doing a great job or saying thanks to a parent for everything they’ve done for you over the years can strengthen your relationships, boost your mood, and reduce negative emotions. While handwritten is best (who doesn’t love to receive a letter in the mail?), even a simple phone call, text, or email can create good feelings between everyone involved
4. Pay someone’s tab
When you’re in the drive-through at your favorite coffee shop or standing in line at a cafe, try paying for the latte of the person behind you, too. There’s even a name for this: “suspended coffee”, which has an entire movement now and comes from the charming Italian term of caffe sospeso. People in Naples have been practicing caffe sospeso for over a century, in which a cafe-goer will pay in advance for the coffee of the next person who comes in. Paying it forward can pay off in making the world a better place, one cup at a time.
5. Add change to an expired meter
Another way to pay it forward is to drop a couple of quarters into a meter that’s in the red. Imagine how happy you would be to come out to a ticket-less car after running an errand took longer than you thought it would. Day, made.
6. Hold the door open
This simple gesture can mean the world to someone who has his or her hands full. We all know the struggle of trying to balance carrying your groceries, your work bag, your keys, and your coffee mug all while trying to pull open a door that won’t budge. Taking a few extra seconds out of your day can help boost the mood of the person behind you by making their struggle moment a little easier.
7. Be a kind driver
Even though your morning commute may make you want to rip your hair out, starting the day off being a kinder driver can make your whole day calmer. Road rage just isn’t fun – for both the rager and the ones being raged against (does anyone really feel better after yelling obscenities out their window?). Today, try letting people in when they’re trying to merge in front of you, waving someone to go first at the stop sign, and laying off the horn!
8. Give up your seat
If you’re one who takes public transportation rather than braving the freeways yourself, try giving up your seat to someone in need. Someone older than you, someone with a child, or someone carrying just a few too many things could all benefit from taking a seat. You’d be surprised how much this modest gesture can benefit both of you!
Whether you can donate your time or your old treasures, anything you can part with is able to help someone else in need. If your kids have outgrown old toys or books, or you’ve moved on from a certain style of clothes, package them up and donate them to a homeless shelter, a hospital, or a church for others to enjoy them. If you can donate your time, volunteering at a cause that is important to you can make a difference in the world and give you a sense of purpose and joy.
We all have the power to make the world a better place, one small gesture of kindness at a time. Go out and hug a stranger today! If nothing else, hold that door open behind you or flash your pearly whites to a passerby on the street. Being kind spreads happiness to both you and the recipient of your good gesture. Let us know if you try any of these random acts of kindness and how it made you feel! And here’s a virtual hug, from us to you.
Did you know?
Experts claim that each month, the average person spends roughly an hour hugging. We think that’s an hour too little.