What Will You Do for Random Acts of Kindness Day?

February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day.

One of the few things the majority of people can agree on these days is that kindness is in short supply. At least that’s obvious when you scroll through social media and news channels. Our attention is called to shocking accounts, revelations of surprise, and a novel way of saying the same sorts of claims.

We seek attention. There is nothing pathological about wanting those around us to notice our presence, uniqueness, and contribution to the world. Advertisement dollars, clicks, and views depend on our responses and competition for the top of the search engine is steep.

An occasional act of kindness does get closer examination at times, which helps us restore our inner faith in humankind. The random part of this day we acknowledge is the fascinating part. It suggests the kind gesture is unplanned and the intended target is whoever crosses your path. The most puzzling aspect of a random act of kindness implies authentic altruism.

Altruism in its purest form is performing a kind act or bestowing a gift to someone with absolutely no credit or acknowledgement whatsoever. The receiver does not even know who the benefactor is. The giver gains nothing from the exchange.

Altruism is one of the most underrepresented traits in society. It is the opposite characteristic seen in the headlines. When a great Samaritan deed is performed, it can get noticed partly because it’s so hard to believe. Laying your life on the line for a stranger or giving up something of significant cost is quite astounding.

So, is there any benefit to adopting a kind and giving attitude? According to Barasch, Levine, Berman, & Small (2014) in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, those rare individuals who exhibit prosocial behavior such as extending altruistic deeds really do have something to gain. There are notable intrapsychic benefits for those who listen to that little voice of finding someone in need and caring for them. The study demonstrated that those of us who show kindness and feel an emotional reaction are gaining a sense of warmth and feel good chemicals while society would attribute a higher moral character to their reputation.

Ideally, we can adopt a generous and helpful approach to life simply to pay it forward in the world. But there are invisible benefits for the most altruistic among us. Doing something good and knowing deep in your heart that you have made the world a better place does improve your mood, empathy for others, and overall mental health. It also gives you a vision for gaps in your community that you can solve.

Do something kind today – it just may lead to something you never expected.

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