One of the best ways to take care of yourself can be… (drum roll) doing something really nice for someone else.
The term is called “Random Acts of Kindness” and whether you’re into Zen or just want to make a tangible, practical difference in someone’s life and feel better yourself in the process, doing something that changes someone’s day for the good can make remarkable changes in us, as well.
Ever been in a Starbucks line when the employee said “This is free. The person ahead of you in line already paid it forward for you!” Remember that feeling?
The people you see and encounter on a daily basis are a great field ripe for planting contagious kindness—something unexpected that makes the other person smile or at least feel better. Maybe it’s a bit like the “golden rule,” do to others the kinds of things that you would like done to or for you.
The advantages are multifold, both for the person you target and for how it makes you feel too.
1. It encourages us to have our “antenna” up so we are more aware of someone who’s having a tough day or where situations are tense or troubling.
Recognizing and orienting ourselves to notice others and their struggles is a powerful first step.
2. It provides a path for us to be “activists” for a positive reason.
We all see enough protests on the news and elsewhere that pivot on what someone is against. When we do something positive for someone, our activism interrupts their pattern in a good way and can motivate them to pass the positive on. Does our world need that or what?
3. It can start a total cultural shift, one person at a time.
History tells us that most movements of huge proportions began with one person with a vision and dedication to finding the fulcrum that moved the world. By their example, they attracted followers until an unstoppable force was launched. While that might be grandiose by some estimations (C’mon, what can just I do?), you have to ask yourself, what if they had said that?
It will take some effort, and some true “presence” and awareness, because, yes, most of the time we are focused on ourselves. But we can alter that default setting by making some of these Random Acts our new intention.
Here’s a list of suggestions, but we all can usually come up with our own if we just think about what others need.
It begins with awareness, then intention— taking action. But by changing our outlook in that way, we truly start in motion a kinder, friendlier world. We become a direct part and we can share the joy. Who could argue against that?