Can you remember the last time someone was unexpectedly kind to you?
I’m guessing at least some of the people in your life are kind to you on a regular basis. Or at least I hope they are! But maybe their kindness feels commonplace because it’s made up of lots of little things that they do often… like asking if you want a cup of coffee when they’re getting their own, or saying, “I love you” in that rote way we do before hanging up the phone.
Small gestures like this are always valuable and worth appreciating and acknowledging. But there’s something about an unexpected act of kindness that can jolt us awake from the trance of daily living and make us feel seen, valued, and loved.
I’ve been reflecting on kindness a lot lately since revisiting Brad Aronson’s book HumanKind (which is in itself an act of kindness, since all author royalties support the non-profit Big Brothers Big Sisters).
The book shares some truly inspiring stories about kindness and its impacts, and it’s full of simple but powerful ideas to make a positive impact in someone’s life.
It’s the kind of book that makes you want to stop whatever you’re doing and find some way to help someone else, whether that means encouraging them, supporting them, or simply believing in them when they’re struggling to believe in themselves.
So, in that spirit of giving, I decided to make a list of kindness ideas and do one a day for the next thirty days.
If you’d like to join me in spreading a little love, take this list and make it your own! Do one, do some, or do all; adapt them as you please; expand them if you feel inclined to do more, or scale some back if you want to do a little less. Any act of kindness, no matter how small, can have a massive ripple effect.
Since we can’t give from an empty cup, I started with ways we can be kind to ourselves. I then thought of some simple ways we can be kind to our loved ones, strangers (or friends we’ve yet to get to know), people online, and people who serve us.
I hope something in this list inspires you to share a little extra love today and in the days ahead!
Kindness to Yourself
1. Look in the mirror and compliment yourself on how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come. So often we think of what we want to be and where we want to go, or what we think we’re doing wrong, and we don’t take the time to think about and appreciate all the progress we’ve already made.
2. Make a list of things you appreciate about yourself or, if this is hard, reasons someone else might appreciate you.
3. Let yourself enjoy something you usually rush or multitask—for example, savor a meal, drink your coffee in a peaceful spot, or take a mindful shower.
4. Make time for a passion today instead of putting joy on the bottom of your to-do list (if you ever add it to your list at all).
5. Validate your feelings instead of judging or shaming yourself for being angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, or anything else that doesn’t seem “positive.”
6. Check in with yourself every hour or two and ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” Then do what you can to meet that need, whether that means moving your body, taking deep breaths, or writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal. (And remember, it’s okay if you have to say no to someone else to say yes to yourself in this way!)
Kindness to Your Loved Ones
7. Think of someone who’s going through a hard time and offer to do something specific to lighten their load. It doesn’t need to be anything big or perfect. Just knowing you care enough to offer will make them feel seen and supported.
8. Write a hand-written note of appreciation to someone who’s made a big difference in your life.
9. Put your phone down when someone is talking and practice active listening—making eye contact, repeating what they’ve told you to show you understand them, and empathizing with what they’re saying.
10. See the wounded child in someone who’s lashing out emotionally and offer them an ear or a hug. (Note: by “lashing out emotionally,” I mean being testy, not abusive.)
11. Pause before you lash out emotionally to take a few deep breaths, reflect on why you’re really upset, and consciously choose how you want to respond.
12. Ask someone what their love language is—words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch—so you can do something that’s likely to make them feel loved and appreciated.
Kindness to Strangers
13. Compliment a stranger on something non-physical—for example, compliment a mother on her patience or tell someone you love their laugh.
14. Give someone on the road or the street the benefit of the doubt. Consider that the driver who cut you off might be rushing home to deal with a crisis, or that the surly man who didn’t hold the door for you is grieving the loss of someone they love. This is also an act of self-kindness, because it keeps us from getting frustrated!
15. Help a stranger with something they’re struggling with—for example, guide them into a tough parking spot, make silly faces to help entertain a fidgety baby, and offer to take a pic when they’re trying to get a group selfie.
16. Give something you don’t use or need to a homeless person that will help them get through the winter—for example, an old coat or warm socks.
17. Leave a book that helped or inspired you in your local Little Free Library, with an encouraging note to the next reader.
19. Write something kind to someone who’s struggling online, whether they’ve directly shared what they’re going through or they seem emotionally reactive (which is often a sign of deep pain).
20. Disagree respectfully instead of getting annoyed or defensive or telling someone they’re wrong. For example, you could write, “Though I see things differently, I understand why you’d hold that perspective.”
21. Share a helpful resource with someone who needs it. For example, email a link to a relevant article or podcast with someone who’s seeking help or advice.
22. Leave a positive review for a product or service you’ve enjoyed—and even better, be someone’s first review to reassure them they’re making a difference, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
23. Support an online fundraiser with a small donation or contribute to a gift for a child who might not otherwise receive a holiday present, through One Simple Wish. If you can’t afford to donate, share a fundraiser for a cause that matters to you with your friends and family on social media.
24. Congratulate someone on an accomplishment they’ve shared publicly—a degree, a month sober, or even just a mental health day for someone who usually pushes themselves too hard—and include something specific about why you’re proud of them or inspired by them.
Kindness to People Who Serve You
25. Be patient with someone who’s serving you, like a barista or cashier, and tell them to take their time.
26. Put a sticky note with the words “thank you” on your mailbox to thank your mail carrier for a job well-done. If you can afford it, leave a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop.
27. Compliment someone who serves you in some way on how well they do their job, with a specific example.
28. Start a call with a customer service rep by saying, “I imagine this isn’t an easy job, so first things first, thank you for what you do and for helping me today.”
29. Note something you appreciated about a service worker’s efforts—perhaps a retail associate, flight attendant, or bank teller—and email their manager to commend their work.
30. Add a “Thank you” with a smiley face when you sign your next credit card receipt. (I usually put two exclamation points after “thank you” and make the dots the eyes for the smiley.)
If you enjoyed this list and you’re feeling all jazzed up about spreading a little extra love, I highly recommend you check out HumanKind by Brad Aronson!
He has a special stocking stuffer deal going on right now, offering the book for only $8.50 when you buy five or more, and a single copy is currently 25% off on Amazon. He’s also offering the eBook for only $.99 for a limited time.
Treat yourself to an uplifting afternoon read and keep the kindness chain going by gifting a copy to someone who could use a little light. You never know what could grow from a simple seed of kindness and love.