Doing Good Does You Good

Everyone knows that random acts of kindness and “paying it forward” are great ways to spread joy. But what you may not know is that generosity and good deeds are ALSO a form of self-care. Our brains are literally wired for acts of kindness. And studies of brain chemistry show that giving to others is much more rewarding than receiving. If you’re feeling stumped, start with simple things. Even small gestures can make a big impact on someone’s mood—and yours. Here are some ideas.

  1. When you’re ordering food or coffee, pay for the person behind you. You can also leave money in a vending machine for the next person.
  2. Introduce two friends who you think would really hit it off.
  3. Help a friend or family member move or unpack.
  4. Clean out your closet and donate old clothes to a shelter or charity thrift store.
  5. Collect winter coats from friends and relatives and give them to a homeless shelter.
  6. Go shopping for an elderly relative or neighbor, or someone who is recovering from surgery.
  7. Offer words of encouragement or support to a friend before a big interview, test, tryout or audition.
  8. Help out a stressed parent by offering to babysit.
  9. Surprise your sibling by doing a household chore they usually do. Or do a household chore that your parents usually take care of.
  10. Compliment a friend on their outfit, makeup, hair or clothing.
  11. If you’re out in public and see a well-behaved child, tell the parents how impressed you are by their child’s behavior. Even better if the child hears you—it will boost their self-esteem.
  12. Let a sibling or friend borrow your favorite shirt, video game, shoes, book—whatever!
  13. Volunteer at a food bank or soup kitchen.
  14. Leave a glowing review on Google or social media for a restaurant or business you appreciate.
  15. Send a snail-mail thank-you card to someone after receiving a gift.
  16. Tell your parents “thank you”—for anything! (And for everything.)
  17. Hold the door for someone.
  18. Leave a nice note for a family member or friend “just because.”
  19. If you’re feeling annoyed by someone, pause, reflect, and make an effort to put yourself in their shoes.
  20. Warm up a family member’s car before work or wash and vacuum it over the weekend.
  21. Publicly compliment a friend or classmate on something they did well. Compliments hold more weight when they are public.
  22. Listen patiently when a friend comes to you to vent their feelings.
  23. Decorate a friend’s locker for their birthday. Ask friends and classmates to leave kind notes throughout the day.
  24. The next time you’re in a disagreement, let the other person have their way without putting up a fight.
  25. Share your meal with someone who doesn’t have enough to eat.
  26. If you know someone looking for a job, be on the lookout for openings and send leads their way.
  27. Collect spare change from your friends and classmates to buy a gift for a special teacher or school administrator.
  28. Create a scrapbook or journal of all the great memories you share with a friend and then give it to them.
  29. Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Bonus points if you offer to help them with yard work or other chores.
  30. Pack extra snacks and offer them to your classmates and friends.
  31. If you have a unique skill—like programming, photography, cooking, etc.—donate your time and talents to a local organization. Or offer to help or tutor someone who’s just beginning.
  32. Stand up for someone you see being treated unfairly.
  33. Offer to cover a coworker’s shift if they’re sick or have a schedule conflict.
  34. Help out someone who just had a baby—by delivering a meal, helping with housework, or watching older kids.
  35. Cheer on your friends at their recitals, concerts, games, etc.
  36. Send a care package to a college student, a deployed soldier or someone you know is struggling.
  37. Collect boxes for a friend, neighbor of family member who’s moving soon.
  38. Introduce yourself to a new student and give them a tour of the school.
  39. Help a younger sibling with their homework.
  40. If you have a handyman, maid or landscaper working at your house, offer them a drink or snack.
  41. Reach out to a teacher or mentor who has made a positive impact in your life and let them know how much they mean to you.
  42. Help a friend clean their car or rearrange their room.
  43. Rake leaves, shovel sidewalks and driveways, and pick up trash in your neighborhood.
  44. Fill up a parking meter that’s about to run out.
  45. Text a friend you haven’t seen in awhile and make plans to hang out.
  46. Give someone a ride to or from school.
  47. Donate blood or sign up to be an organ donor.
  48. Bake a cake or sweet treat for someone’s birthday.
  49. Give a stranger a sincere compliment.
  50. The next time you find yourself starting to complain about something minor, just let it go.
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