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Random Acts of Kindness

A Random Act of Kindness (RAK) is something that you do for another person, without any expectation of a return. It is an altruistic act intended to make the world better in a small or big way. The act doesn’t require a thank you or acknowledgement in any form from the person receiving the act of kindness.

Being kind is literally good for you! Scientifically, being kind makes you feel better and is even better for your physical wellbeing. In a post-pandemic world, tackling social isolation and loneliness is high on the agenda for many, and RAK is an accessible route to addressing these issues through social and cooperative action. Humans are hardwired to be social animals and a little bit of kindness between us just makes the world a better place.

Do a little bit of RAK and receive a plethora of benefits for your efforts. It fosters empathy with others and makes the recipient of the RAK feel better!

Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, otherwise known as the study of happiness, says, Doing an act of kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise that has been tested. Find one wholly unexpected kind thing to do tomorrow and just do it. Notice what happens to your mood.

Random Acts of Kindness can prompt us to reflect on what’s good in our lives. It can help us to be grateful for what we have and what we can bring to others.

Dr Robert Emmons said, Gratitude implies humility– a recognition that we could not be who we are or where we are in life without the contributions of others. Being grateful is an acknowledgement that there are good and enjoyable things in the world..

Gratitude reduces stress and plays a major role in overcoming trauma.

Gratitude fosters resilience by recognizing all that you are grateful for – even during the worst times.

Gratitude has the power to heal, the power to bring us hope, and the power to help us cope during the hardest times

How do I get started?

Take a few moments to imagine what you can action to show someone kindness. This can be in the smallest of ways, such as holding a door open, or offering someone a cup of tea. It can be something larger like offering to buy someone lunch, or giving someone a surprise gift. It could be something closer to the heart like a phone call to an old friend to wish them well or write a letter to a relative. Maybe you could send someone flowers or offer to walk their dog. You can also take on bigger actions like signing up to donate blood or volunteer with a charity.

Watch this video to see an example of how tragedy inspired kindness through flowers.

What are the drawbacks?

Sometimes strangers are confused or become confrontational when engaged with RAK. This is uncommon but can happen. You can diffuse the situation by walking away, or rethinking how you have communicated the engagement. It’s OK if the RAK goes a bit wrong! Nothing is perfect in life, and you can always try another approach in the future.

Further reading

Curry, O. S. et al. 2018 “Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor”, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, pp. 320-329

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

Shillington, K.J., Johnson, A.M., Mantler, T. et al. Kindness as an Intervention for Student Social Interaction Anxiety, Affect, and Mood: The KISS of Kindness Study. Int J Appl Posit Psychol 6, 23–44 (2021).

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