It turns out generosity really does have its own rewards
I recently read about a study by psychologists which spanned across more than 100 countries and 200,000 people, all from varying income levels and ages. The study suggests there may be one distinct quality in people that is linked to happiness.
The finding, according to lead author Lara Aknin, suggests the feeling of psychological reward experienced from
helping others is deeply ingrained in human nature.
So this week, I was inspired to do a not-as-scientific study of my own with random acts of kindness.
Here’s my five-day acts of kindness challenge:
• Monday: Send a hand-written letter to someone who made a difference in your life.
I wrote a letter to my older sister. If there’s one person who has molded me into the person I am today, it’s her. Even though I often tell her that I love her, I could never tell her enough. Reminding people in your life of how much they mean to you is never a wasted effort.
• Tuesday: Leave “confidence sticky notes” behind for people you know. And people you don’t.
I started the day leaving one on my bathroom mirror for my roommate to find when she woke up that morning. The note wished her a good day and reminded her that she was beautiful. For such a small gesture, I know it meant a lot to her because, well, she told me so. And she also shared a photo of it, “#bestroomieever,” which of course made me happy knowing that I am officially the best roommate there ever was.
I also left a similar note at the gym on the bathroom mirror for a random person to find. I’m not sure if it will have the same effect, but I like to think they shared a photo of it also.
• Wednesday: Treat a stranger to a free lunch or a free coffee.
On my lunch break, I paid for the person’s meal behind me in the drive-thru. Having worked in fast food before, I have seen this done a couple of times, so in the past I have had the pleasure of seeing the customers’ reactions when they find out their meal has been paid for by the stranger in front of them. I’ve always wanted to do that for someone, but I never got around to it until this week. Even though I did not get to see the person’s reaction, I felt a tingle of joy as I pulled away, knowing I did a small amount of good for someone else’s day.
• Thursday: Bring a special treat for your co-workers.
I’m pretty certain I have some of the sweetest co-workers ever, and it isn’t uncommon for them to bring treats to the office. I am far from the most talented person in the kitchen, but it was time that I returned the favor. I attempted to make chocolate-covered strawberries covered in colored sprinkles. Things I learned from this activity: Don’t overcook the chocolate. That stuff doesn’t go on so smoothly once it’s overcooked, so they turned out more like semi-covered chocolate strawberries. Also, you can never make too many of those thing
s. I ran out before I could spread them around the whole office, but at least that’s a decent testament to the fact that they turned out OK.
• Friday: Donate to a charity.
You know those times when you’re purchasing something at a store and the cashier asks you if you want to donate $1 to a charity they’re sponsoring? Well I did. And I try to make it a habit to do so on occasion. It feels good to give back, and even if you think $1 won’t make a difference, just remember how much the store would raise if every person said yes. Plus, you’re making the cashier happy too since they have to ask every single customer, and I’m sure they don’t like being turned down.
Did I feel happy doing all these things? Actually, I really did. I also like to think that doing these things for people had a ripple effect. But doing random acts of kindness shouldn’t be restricted to five days, and I hope to continue to look for everyday opportunities to spread kindness as well as generosity. The reward will certainly pay off.
This is a weekly series about following through with a New Year’s resolution to have a new experience each week. To suggest topics or experiences, email email@example.com.