#02 Random Acts of Kindness

A random act of kindness may seem counter-intuitive in our self-centred world. But the effects are spectacular and it would be a shame to deprive oneself of them...

WHAT IS A RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS ?

A random act of kindness is a way of giving our best self to an acquaintance or stranger, without asking or waiting for anything in return.

Random kindness entails a true and totally disinterested/selfless intention and a concrete action that can last from a few seconds to several hours. On this basis, it is a very simple and pragmatic action, easy to integrate into our daily routines and to practice.

An act of random kindness may seem counterintuitive as our genetics and education often push us to favour ourselves or the ones closest to us, but the effects of gracious kindness are tremendous and it would be a shame to miss out on them.

THE EFFECTS OF PRACTICING ACTS OF RANDOM KINDNESS

The acts of random kindness have not only a positive impact for those that receive them (logical!) but also for those that perform them.

The main effect on the giver is the creation of emotional and physiological chain reactions.

Many studies have shed light on the several benefits of practicing acts of random kindness, including significant mood improvement and feelings of well-being in the donor. 

The observed effects of acts of random kindness include:

  1. A feeling of expansion and wonder for the receiver AND the donor

  2. Oxytocin production, “the hormone of happiness and relationships”, that lowers blood pressure, improves heart health and increases self-worth feelings and optimism.

  3. Increased levels of energy and strength

  4. Creation of sensations of calmness

  5. Decrease of depression symptoms

  6. Enhancement of self-esteem

  7. Reduction of chronic pain

  8. Production of serotonin, which acts on the brain as a painkiller

  9. Reduction of cortisol production, “the stress hormone” and slowing down of the ageing process

  10. Decrease of anxiety in individuals experiencing immense anxiety

The practice of kindness has also measurable and visible effects on our brain. Regular habits of kindness modify our brain connections and promote neuroplasticity and the regeneration of neural connections in our brain.

Lastly, the latest research in neurology suggests that developing gracious kindness reduces mental distress and boosts the immune system of those who practice it.

HOW TO PRACTICE?

Meditation of the week

There are several ways of putting into practice acts of random kindness but to start to create new habits, I will suggest you the following approach, validated by a scientific study.

On a single day this week, do 5 acts of random kindness, all 5 on the same day. The effect is more noticeable if these acts are concentrated on a single day rather then spread out through the week.

The size of the action is not important, the acts can be small or big. To promote greater effectiveness, try to vary your approaches and the receivers. Studies have shown that variety matters and that always repeating the same good deeds decreases the positive effects.

These acts should be gracious and selfless. It is not even necessary that the receivers conscientiously notice it (yes, you can iron those clothes without telling anyone). A non-exhaustive list is available here.

On this day, briefly describe, just for yourself, the 5 gracious actions that you did.

You can also describe the sensations and emotions that you felt to amplify the effects even more.

The facebook group « 40% happier » is open to dialogue, exchange and experience sharing. I also reply every week to any questions you might have.

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Recommended Readings:

The Little Book of Kindness: Everyday actions to change your life and the world around you – Bernadette Russell

The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity – Sally Kohn

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Random Acts of Kindness: 101 Stories of Compassion and Paying it Forward – Amy Newark

Download this week’s meditation on kindness

WEEKLY MEDITATION

Loving Kindness meditation