You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
On the evening of November 14, 2012, NYPD Officer Lawrence DePrimo while on patrol bought a pair of boots for a homeless man in Times Square, making global headlines.
Or what about the inspiring story of Scott Widak. Sean O’Connor posted a call-out on Reddit for letters to be sent to his uncle Scott Widak, who was terminally ill and had Down syndrome. Within days, the Reddit community responded with hundreds of letters and gifts for the bedridden 47-year-old, filling his last days with happiness.
Now, to encourage us all to make someone’s day, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation promotes Random Acts of Kindness Week — from February 11th-15th.
Throughout the week, we will give a $10 coupon for our website to one lucky daily winner. All you have to do is tweet your random act of kindness to @naturalhealthy, pin an act of kindness that you find inspiring on our Pinterest board, or simply leave a comment below letting us know about your act of kindness.
How it all Started
In 1982, legend has it, writer and peace activist Anne Herbert scrawled “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat in a Sausalito, California, restaurant.
Eleven years later, in 1993, Bakersfield College professor Chuck Wall, reacted to a radio report of “another random act of senseless violence” by urging his students to perform a “random act of senseless kindness.”
And in 1995, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation was established to support anyone committed to spreading kindness.
If you have no idea where to start, the foundation has a few suggestions:
- Monday, Feb 11 — Smile at 10 strangers
- Tuesday, Feb 12 — Buy something for the person in the line behind you
- Wednesday, Feb 13 — Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while
- Thursday, Feb 14 — Bring a treat to a neighbor or your co-workers
- Friday, Feb 15 — Donate your time or money to a local charity
- Saturday, Feb 16 — Cook a healthy meal
- Sunday, Feb 17 — Let someone go in front of you in line
Health Benefits of Being Kind
As with so many other positive actions we take, there are some real health benefits to making someone’s day.
Enjoy a Helper’s High
We all feel good when we do something selfless; we get a bit of a ‘helper’s high’ — most likely the result of elevated levels of endorphins, which create a feeling of bliss and are our own natural pain killers.
A healthy Boost for Our Heart
When we make a kind gesture, we also enjoy a sense of emotional warmth as our body releases the hormone oxytocin throughout our brain and body.
Oxytocin then stimulates the release of nitric oxide in our blood vessels, dilating, or expanding, them to reduce our blood pressure.
Naturally Slows Aging
Nothing, unfortunately, can turn back father time, but we can slow the effects. At a biochemical level, free radicals and inflammation are the main offenders when it comes to aging.
And oxytocin can beat back these enemies of our youth to help our heart, if not our dwindling years.
And believe it or not, our very survival once depended on being kind to others. Our ancient ancestors had to co-operate with one another to overcome obstacles and predators to boost their chances of seeing another sunrise.
So we are actually hardwired to be kind to one another.
“Modern research shows one of the most pleasurable of all human acts is also one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and for others. Gentle, caring selflessness results in significant health benefits,” writes Paul Pearsall in The Pleasure Prescription.
Allan Luks and Peggy Paynewrite talk about other “magical effects” of pleasure and well-being that come with helping others, in The Healing Power of Doing Good.
- A more optimistic and happier outlook on life
- An increase in energy
- A feeling of being healthy
- A greater sense of calmness and relaxation
- Better weight control
- An improvement in insomnia
- A stronger immune system
- A reduction in pain
- A reduction of excessive stomach acid
- Relief from arthritis and asthma
- Speedier recovery from surgery
You don’t have to make a major gesture to enjoy these health benefits. Brief, small, regular acts will do nicley.
And small, pleasurable experiences may more than offset any negative health effects brought about by life’s stressful events, regardless of their magnitude.
A Cautionary Warning
However, as with many things, there is a caveat: It is important not to expect anything in return — not so much as the wave of a hand or any other form of acknowledgement for your good deed.
Otherwise, you will simply diminish the benefit. Expect no outcome and there can be no disappointment. And any positive reaction is simply a wonderful bonus.
If you need some more inspiration, here’s a YouTube video showing how a group of friends turned random acts of kindness into a fantastic day out.
This article was inspired by
Health Benefits of Kindness, by Melissa Breyer
5 Beneficial Side Effects of Kindness, by David R Hamilton
Kindness and Health, by the Australian Kindness Movement