Every year there’s a Random Acts of Kindness Day, which in 2023 fell on February 17. But how do you feel about there being one specific day designated for this? Wouldn't every day benefit from us simply being nice, kind & thoughtful towards each other as an automatic response, without having to pinpoint a specific day? Being kind, especially if there’s no anticipation of reward means that we’re simply giving something away because we want to.
Random acts do not require too much thought. They’re simply a response, a reaction to a situation, or are times when we say or do something on a whim. They’re different from a sustained, ongoing act of charity or volunteering on a regular basis. They’re more likely to be an impulse to do something good to help another person get by or improve their day.
And why not, when there’s so much we can give away for free!
Smiles are free to give and can be contagious, spreading easily from one person to the next. Smiling at a stranger may be a little unnerving for them at first and not everyone will respond well to being smiled at, especially by someone they may not know!
Increasingly, we live in a busy, focus on where you’re going, what you’re doing kind of world. But if we hold our smile and continue being genuinely happy, cheerful and pleasant people are more likely to relax and smile back.
A compliment given to a stranger can make their day and may be the single positive thing that’s come their way in some time, perhaps the only pleasant interaction they’ve had that day. It’s an act of kindness to volunteer a generous remark, ‘your hair looks really lovely’, ‘how bright and sunshiney you look, I love those colours you're wearing’.
And sometimes it’s important to just go for it and say or do it, without too much reflection. How often do we stop ourselves from saying something because we’ve run a ‘what will they think, how will they react?’ scenario in our heads, before we’ve opened our mouths? If we do that we may well find that we lose the moment or talk ourselves out of saying anything at all. Something we may later regret.
A random kindness may be sharing a few words of conversation, some moments of time as we stand deliberating over the food choices in the supermarket,’ have you tried it, what did you think’, or exchanging a casual few words at the bus stop or in a queue, not necessarily starting a conversation, but enjoying a brief, pleasant exchange.
Being thoughtful, getting someone a coffee when they're busy, running them a bath after a stressful day, doing something to ease their load, or even phoning them to check on how they’re doing can in addition benefit everyone connected to them by improving their mood.
Praise can be another random act of kindness, where we thank someone for a job well done, with no strings attached. ‘That was a great piece of work, I knew I could rely on you, thank you so much, you’ve been a massive help, I really appreciate all you’ve done’ are ways to value someone’s efforts, and can make a huge difference. Even when we’re paying someone to work for us, being thanked can mean they feel more satisfied in their endeavours and recognised, often becoming more motivated as a consequence.
Adding a rider, ‘why don’t you do that every time, I hope you can maintain that standard in future’ is hardly likely to reward, recognise or enthuse someone to continue making an effort. Those qualifiers bring a hesitant, almost begrudging tone to any praise that’s being given and are not especially kind.
Even relatively simple things, like accepting a neighbour’s delivery, putting their bins out when they’re away or being sufficiently interested, so that you’re able to follow on from a previous conversation can ensure that people feel acknowledged, supported and less alone or isolated, especially if they’re going through a tough time and experiencing lots of stress. A little thing can make a big difference to someone’s life and be an important gesture of support and kindness.
Random Acts of Kindness can oil the wheels and improve everyone’s day, whilst requiring very little effort, and, oftentimes, just a little thought!
Susan Leigh, Counsellor & Hypnotherapist www.lifestyletherapy.net