CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Every year on Nov. 13, World Kindness Day comes around. The hope for the makeshift holiday is to remind everyone how important it is to bring compassion to others.
And in a year like 2020 has been, a little bit of kindness is needed more than ever.
Dr. Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling, or "Dr. L-R" as her students call her, is a professor in the Department of Psychological Studies and Health Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She believes kindness is so much more than an act. It's a boost to your psyche.
"Doing acts of kindness and noticing the acts of kindness we have engaged in has been shown to increase subjective well-being and happiness," Dr. L-R said. "It also fosters gratitude. These findings have been observed cross-culturally and may be universal. Even happy people get happier when they engage in acts of kindness."
Dr. L-R referenced a psychological study by Pressman, Kraft & Cross which states "doing good is, in fact, good for you."
"There is a large literature base on the long-term psychological and physical health effects of altruism and volunteering with a profound range of impacts documented for the giver of kindness, including living longer, enjoying one's life more, lower blood pressure and reduced risk of depression," Dr. L-R said. "In the short term, engaging in a random act of kindness has been shown to increase positive moods and decrease negative moods."
She went on to say random acts of kindness can even lead to boosts in creativity and people's problem-solving ability and can even help children thrive.
"Other studies suggest that engaging in sustained acts of kindness (three acts a week over multiple weeks) improves peer acceptance and reduces social anxiety," Dr. L-R mentioned. "This is critical because children who have higher levels of peer acceptance have also been shown to have better academic outcomes and be less likely to experience bullying."
Research shows acts of kindness make us feel better and healthier. And the way it makes us feel when someone does something kind for us? That's pretty peachy, too. Dr. L-R said studies have shown "receiving a random act of kindness is contagious, with 40% paying it forward to another recipient within 24 hours after they experienced the kindness."
"It is important, however, to vary the kind acts we are doing as we experience greater feelings of happiness, connection and contentment if we are being kind in novel ways," Dr. L-R explained.
So in recognition of World Kindness Day, here are some simple and affordable (and, in some cases, completely free) ways you can spread the love to your fellow human being.
How to celebrate World Kindness Day
- Put your phone face down when someone is speaking
- Return shopping carts that are not put back properly in the grocery store parking lot
- Write a thank you note for your local first responders
- Call a relative you haven't spoken to in a long time
- Register to be an organ donor
- Mow someone else's lawn
- Reach out to a friend who you know lost someone close to them this year and remind them that you're thinking of them
- Contribute to a worthy charity
- Email a coworker and tell them how much you appreciate their hard work
- Drop flowers off at a hospital for the health care workers themselves or a nursing home to brighten a common room
- Learn the names of security guards, postal workers, etc. to show how important they are
- Compliment the first person you see today
- Buy extra dog food, toys and donate it to a nearby shelter in need
- Give someone a potted plant
- Tell a parent how well behaved their child is when dining out
- Listen intently and don't interrupt
- Recommend or endorse coworkers on LinkedIn
- Send an encouraging text or Facebook message to five people you haven't spoken to in a while
- Let someone go in front of you at the grocery store
- If you hear gossip, add something nice about the person
- Tip heavily on a delivery order
- Buy a coffee for the person behind you
- Donate items to a homeless shelter
- Contact a former teacher and share with them how they made a difference in your life
- Give a sealed bottle of water to garbage men or mail carrier when it's warm outside
- Say thank you to everyone who does something for you that day
The Associated Press contributed to this report.