I had a busy, somewhat stressful week. When that happens, I really become attuned to the kindness of others, because little things mean a lot more when I’m trying to keep my attitude in the positive zone. I also make a concentrated effort to spread kindness when I’m feeling stressed, because that usually helps me snap out of a bad mood. And since we’re in the holiday season, 12 feels like the right number of my favorite acts of kindness to share.
So if you’d like to try spreading some cheer, you can…
1. Buy someone a beverage
Inexpensive and super simple. Taking a trip to the vending machine? Grab an extra and give it away. Stopping at Starbucks on the way to work or class? Text a friend and see if you can get them something. I also like to occasionally pay for the car behind me in the drive thru, because everyone can use an unexpected kindness.
2. Give sincere compliments
Costs nothing, only takes a few seconds, and can make a big difference. When there’s a reason to recognize someone, do it.
3. Write a positive note
At work, I like to sneak Post Its on people’s desks with messages like, “You make working here awesome” or “Thanks for helping me out this morning”. I also keep a box of cards (Thank you, Congratulations, Good luck, etc.) on hand, so I’m always ready to celebrate or offer encouragement.
3. Bring food (with some extra thought)
Giving someone a treat is always a win, and this time of year most of us are surrounded by goodies. At my job and in my circle, we’re really big on treat days and teaming up for meals (I talked a little about that in my holiday gathering post two weeks ago). And if you want to level up…
Bring a healthier option. A few years ago I noticed that I always saw people who never ate any of the cookies and whatnot because they were dieting, diabetic, had food allergies, etc. So I started looking for recipes (and bakeries, when I needed to save time) that could provide some treats that were healthier, but still yummy. It takes a little extra effort, but I love being able to bring something for everyone.
4. Give someone a break
Offer to babysit, run a few errands, help with a cleaning project, etc. This is really powerful, because not only are you making someone’s life a little easier, but you’re showing that you care about them.
5. Take time to listen
Yes, we’re all busy, but find the time to connect with others, and find out what’s going on in their lives. The gift of a friendly ear really is priceless.
6. Extend an invitation
Let’s have lunch, want to join me to knock out some holiday shopping, how about getting coffee, want to see an movie…everyone likes to be invited. And on a related note…
7. Try someone else’s idea
Be open to letting someone else choose the restaurant, activity, etc., and then go with a positive attitude. Even if it turns out not to be your thing, they’ll appreciate that you gave it your best shot.
8. Give someone a gift (even a small one)
My two favorite types of small gifts are the things people don’t think to buy themselves (like fun versions of everyday items, or mini luxuries), and the things someone always needs (one of my friends at work regularly gives me colored Post Its, because I’m always running out). A few dollars is enough to say “I’m thinking of you”.
9. Give a group a gift
Group gifts are great because they increase the number of people benefiting, and sometimes create shared time and connections. A new game or activity can be great for a family, because everyone can enjoy it. At work, a shared gift can have a huge impact on the overall environment. Every once in a while one of my coworkers brings a bunch of flavored creamer for the coffee room, and everyone has a better morning. And you can imagine the excitement when a few of us went in together to upgrade the coffee machine.
10. Clean up (even if it isn’t your mess)
If you make a mess, you should clean it up. We all know that…except that we also know that not everyone practices it. If you have the extra minute (and most of the time we do), clear off a table in the break room, rinse the dishes in the sink, return a shopping cart to the cart corral, etc. You’ll definitely be making someone else’s day a little bit easier.
11. Introduce yourself and/or have a conversation
Do you have a neighbor you wave to but have barely spoken to? A coworker you pass in the hall but couldn’t put a name to to save your life? A parent you see everyday waiting near you in the school pick up area? Take the time for a meet and greet.
It’s good for you and the people you smile at. Don’t just take my word for it-click here to check out some science.
What are your favorite ways to spread kindness? Let me know in the comments!