Why random acts of kindness can help us feel happier

Random acts of kindness involve a selfless act that benefits another person or animal, and although the act itself is selfless, the benefit is also self-fulfilling.

Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.”

When we do small things with great love, it involves the emotions of compassion, kindness and empathy and these emotions are powerful allies to those happy hormones of serotonin and oxytocin.

Kindness is linked inextricably to happiness and contentment—at both psychological and spiritual levels. Over a decade ago, in a study of Japanese undergraduates, researcher Otake and colleagues, found that happy people were kinder than people who were not happy. Their study also revealed and that one’s sense of happiness increased by the simple act of counting the number of one’s acts of kindness. Counting one’s acts of kindness also led happy people to become more kind and grateful.

The impact of kindness on our mental health and wellbeing, through how kindness feels to us as well as how it creates positive change in brain regions, plus how kindness impacts the heart, immune system, and even aspects of the ageing process must be the most undervalued way to live a happy and content life with good health and mental wellbeing – and it is completely free!

Dr David Hamilton, a leader in the world of positive psychology has written a book The Five Side Effects of Kindness: This Book Will Make You Feel Better, Be Happier & Live Longer.

From a coaching perspective, there are simple and easy things that you can do every day that will boost the health and wellbeing of those around you as well as your own sense of happiness and contentment:

  1. Give loving kindness

This is a Tibetan Buddhist practice. The idea is to think and feel compassion and kindness towards yourself and others. It’s built around a few key phrases:

May you be happy

May you be well

May you be safe

May you be at peace

2. Recognise something good in another person and tell them.

This practice not only helps you see the other person’s positive attributes – it also helps build self-esteem in those people whose confidence you boost be simply stating what they are good at. Especially useful in the family or workplace setting where familiarity creates a sense that the other person should know this already.

3. Be Kind to Yourself – Create a happiness jar/journal

Recognising your own self-worth; improves your confidence, self-esteem and levels of happiness which in turn has a wider impact on benefitting those around you. The happiness jar/journal is built around these factors:

Something I am proud of for having achieved (boosts self-esteem)

Something that is great about me (not physical attributes such as I’m pretty)

Something I did that was kind/helpful

What I am looking forward to today (an antidote to depression)

What I achieved with confidence or calmness today (the antidote to anxiety)

At the end of each week, you reflect on all the things that you have recorded in the happiness jar’/journal so that you can see a true account of what an amazing person you are.

Random acts of kindness increase a person’s sense of happiness because kindness promotes gratitude. Being kind to others in need and having that awareness that then heightens the sense of your own good fortune also promotes empathy and compassion; which in turn, leads to a sense of interconnectedness with others.

Kindness can forward the will to live in depressed individuals who feel isolated or different; for when you feel connected with others, you lessen alienation and you enhance the sense that we are more similar than dissimilar in our experiences. Feeling connected melds us together rather than divides us. Kindness is potent in strengthening a sense of community and belonging.

Be Kind