5 Things Kind People KnowNo act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~Aesop
An elderly woman in Massachusetts made the news last month, and no one even knows her name. The anonymous woman, known as the “layaway angel,” walked into her local toy store and paid off $20,000 worth of merchandise on layaway.
Within minutes, more than 150 customers were told their merchandise was paid for — all because the woman said it would “help her sleep better at night.” She simply wanted to be kind.
The moment I heard this story, I resolved to be more kind myself. Maybe I didn’t have $20,000 to give, but I could at least do something small — one act of kindness a day for a month. So that’s I did.
The journey was easier than I expected and more rewarding than I imagined. It’s one we all should take, and I’m here to share five compelling reasons why you should begin that journey today.
1. You’ll Gain Happiness and Friends
Acts of kindness are scientifically proven to make you happier. When you do something kind, your body releases the chemical oxytocin — the same chemical released when you fall in love or hold a puppy.
From my own experience, I become more joyful, peaceful and content when regularly practicing acts of kindness. I tend to be an anxious person, and it is easy for me to let anxiety take over. Fortunately, acts of kindness have helped me combat anxiety and control my emotions better.
How is this possible? Kindness helps me to step outside of myself — my anxieties and fears — to focus on others. It’s pretty difficult to be anxious or unhappy when giving a friend a bouquet of her favorite flowers or buying coffee for a stranger.
It also builds our confidence. You’ll feel happier with and proud of your contributions to the world when you are consistently making it a brighter place through random acts of kindness.
As if that weren’t enough evidence to act kind, it also makes you more likeable. You don’t need a rocket scientist to tell you that people want to be friends with happy and selfless people.
One study, for example, found that children who performed three acts of kindness a week were bullied less and gained more friends than those who did not.
2. It Only Takes Five Minutes — Or Less
I know your schedule, to do list, relationships and job are vying for your attention. Even for the busiest people, however, spending five minutes on a small act is possible.
- Write a letter to a friend.
- Share a conversation or a meal with a homeless person.
- Leave an unusually large tip for your waiter.
American author and speaker Leo Buscaglia once said,
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Acts of kindness need not be elaborate or take a long time. Just a few minutes spent on kindness will lead to long-lasting results.
3. The Results Are Instant
The saying “all good things take time” doesn’t apply to the results of kindness. While it often takes weeks to break a bad habit, months to lose weight and years to get that raise or job promotion, happiness from kind acts happens instantly for both you and the receiver.
4. Kindness Breeds More Kindness
The customers who had their layaway items paid for responded with their own acts of kindness. Some bought merchandise for other customers; others donated the money they saved to charity. The culprit? A phenomenon known as the “pay it forward” effect.
The pay it forward effect is well-documented and scientifically-proven. One drive-through in Canada experienced 226 consecutive drivers paying for the meal of the person behind them — all because of the first driver in the chain.
Studies have also found that people are more likely to act kind after observing or receiving an act of kindness.
I can attest to this from my own experience. I will never forget the time I gave Laura a box of truffles. Laura is a coworker of mine with a the-sky-is-falling outlook on life. She rarely smiles, speaks with a lot of negativity and is easily upset by people at work.
I remembered Laura saying she liked chocolate. As I presented her with a box of truffles — a seemingly miniscule and insignificant gift in my mind — her face lit up in a way I had never seen before.
She thanked me profusely while grinning from ear to ear. It occurred to me that perhaps Laura had never been recognized or honored in that way before.
The next day Laura thanked me again and shared that she was inspired by my small gift. She planned to incorporate kindness into her own life — starting by taking her mother to dinner that evening. You never know the ripple that a small act of kindness can create.
5. Anyone Can Do It
No special degree, age, career or status is required to be kind. While certain things in life seem unreachable due to your limitations, there are no limits for being kind.
The “layaway angel” didn’t have special qualifications for being kind — other than the resolve to do it. Kindness is nonexclusive, giving all of us the same opportunity to begin practicing it at any time.
So, how will you act kind today? I promise it’s worth it.