Did you know that the simplest act of kindness can benefit the giver as much as the receiver? It’s safe to say (in fact very safe to say) that as we enter 2020’s final months, people are feeling a bit ‘weary’. And that’s understating things somewhat.
It’s difficult to know how this winter will play out, but with lockdown restrictions changing and Christmas markets not going ahead, it will (unfortunately) be an uncertain time. All the more reason then, for us to find ways to support each other, so that the mental health difficulties of spring lockdown aren’t compounded by shorter days and isolation.
Science tells us that a simple act of kindness is more powerful than you might think, its effects wider reaching than a single person’s mood in that single moment of sharing. Kindness is two things: beneficial for the giver’s happiness, and just as importantly, it’s contagious (poor choice of words?)
The science of kindness
A study in 2007 asked a group of students to carry out five random acts of kindness per week for six weeks. At the end of the study, these students reported significantly higher levels of happiness than the control group. Other studies have linked being kind to increased feelings of life satisfaction and well-being, while also strengthening relationships with others. Another study in 1972 found that the good feelings from one act of kindness can trigger another in either party, leading to a chain reaction. If you remember news stories about coffee shop ‘pay it forward chains’, that’s what was happening.
(Mostly) simple acts of kindness to remember for the winter
The simplest act of kindness can boost your own happiness, other people’s happiness, and even start a chain reaction which keeps the good feelings going. Here are some simple ideas for how to do that this Winter. Let’s get into good habits and support each other:
Kindness to others
- Get in touch with someone you haven’t contacted in a while. As little as a ‘how are you doing, hope things are good’ could make a positive impact. It doesn’t even have to spark a long conversation, just reaching out (and for them being reached out to) will brighten both of your days.
- Donate to a foodbank. Demand on foodbanks has skyrocketed as the pandemic pushes people into vulnerable positions. A small donation would be sorely needed, and it’s easy to do as part of a weekly shop.
- Surprise festive decorations. If you live with family members, housemates, or discerning pets, dig out some tree lights ahead of December and string them up on (for example) some shelves to add a touch of winter festivity to your humble abode.
- Do it yourself (optionally virtual) Christmas market. Many markets may be (understandably) not going ahead, but that doesn’t you can’t enjoy a cup of mulled something without the crowds and stalls. Bonus points for actually doing it outside and video calling a friend doing the same thing from their garden.
- Thank someone for crossing the road to avoid you. If that sentence made sense to you, you have definitely lived through 2020. Smiling is, of course, difficult with a mask on, but a friendly nod when someone does their bit to socially distance will be appreciated.
- Mail instead of links. Receiving physical post in this day and age can be quite exciting, nostalgic even. So if you do happen to have a newspaper or magazine lying around and you think a friend might appreciate an article, get cutting and posting. The raised eyebrows will be very worth it.
- Offer to pick up shopping for someone vulnerable. 2020 has been a great year for this kind of altruism, and the need is still there. Let’s keep this going!
Kindness to yourself (because that’s just as important)
- Switch off devices, go to bed early, and get up earlier to make the most of the daylight.
- Commit to unconditionally forgive yourself for something once per day (although we’re trusting you to use common sense and not forgive crimes or phone use in the cinema).
- Thank yourself for doing ordinary everyday things, they still count.
- Put something fun at the top of your to–do list and treat it like an obligation.
- Read (some of) an informative book about whatever you want to change in your life. A few pages counts!
Some more recent well-being articles for your reading pleasure
We’ve been thinking more about our well-being this year, and we’ve written some of those thoughts down. We hope you’ll find some of them helpful: