How to Make Someone Smile: 10 Mindful Acts of Kindness

“The greatest gifts you can give someone are your time, your love, and your attention.” ~Unknown

The other day I saw this phrase on social media: “Spread kindness, not COVID-19.” And I started thinking about how kindness is contagious, which reminded me of a viral video I’ve always loved:

A skateboarding kid falls, and a construction worker helps him up. The kid then sees an elderly woman struggling with grocery bags and helps her carry them across the street. That woman then gives coins to a woman at a parking meter who’s rifling through her purse. And on and on it goes—one act of kindness rippling through the city as each person pays it forward to someone else.

I think we could all use a little extra love and kindness right now. We could all use a reminder that even when times are tough, people care. And that’s what really matters. Not that we have everything we want, but we have everything we need, because people are looking out for us.

And really, I think that’s that foundation of kindness: paying attention. Noticing when people are struggling, or when they’re in need of ear, or when they could use a little encouragement or motivation to keep moving forward. Noticing the good in people and acknowledging what we see.

In our easily distracted world, a little attention truly is the best gift we can give anyone, because we all want to feel seen, heard, valued, and understood. At the end of the day, even the hardest of challenges feel a lot easier when we know we’re not alone.

So below I’ve listed a handful of COVID-friendly ideas to practice mindful kindness and make someone smile. Tag, you’re it—pass the good vibes on!

1. Ask someone to tell you the best thing that happened to them lately, or something they’re excited or passionate about, and fully listen.

Most people love talking about themselves and their passions, but we don’t always get the opportunity, especially when the people around us are busy or stressed and not available to fully listen. Get someone talking about something that you know will light them up and ask questions to get them to elaborate on the details and to show you’re truly interested.

2. Notice when someone is using one of their strengths and compliment them.

We all have strengths, but we don’t always recognize them, perhaps because they feel like second nature to us, or we assume other people do whatever it is better.

Tell someone they’re an amazing listener if they’re tuned in when you’re talking, or you admire their empathy if they defend someone who others are gossiping about, or you love their ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit if they’re discussing a new business idea they’re considering.

3. Scan your environment today for things that remind you of people you love and text them to let you know you thought of them, and why.

This is a win/win because looking for things in your environment that make you think of people you love will get you out of your head and pull you into the moment. And sharing these things with other people will make them feel valued and loved.

Use all your senses for this one. Maybe it’s the smell of a certain food that brings you back to an amazing meal you shared with a friend. Or it’s a song on the radio that you and your sister listened to obsessively in high school. Or it’s the feeling of snow crunching under your shoes that reminds you of a particularly memorable ski trip with your cousin.

4. Tell someone why you’re grateful for them, noting something specific about their character or something they did recently.

We all have a natural negativity bias, which means we’re more apt to focus on our mistakes, flaws, and shortcomings than all the good we do and the value we provide to the people around us—which is why a little acknowledgement can go a long way.

A while back my sister posted a meme with the Tinman holding a heart on my Facebook page, because that was the character I played for a decade when she and I performed Wizard of Oz shows at kids’ birthday parties when we were young. The wording read “For anyone who’s feeling unloved today, I love you.”

In the description, my sister wrote: “I saw this and immediately thought of you (for a couple of reasons). You’re the most incredible and empathetic person I know… and you exude so much love to everyone (especially me). The world is beyond lucky to have you in it, and no one has a bigger heart than you. I love you.”

I can’t remember ever feeling so seen, valued, and loved!

5. Recognize someone in your life who is doing something hard, then let them know you’re proud of them, and why.

Perhaps this is someone in your household who’s juggling work and parenting and thinks they’re failing—even though they’re giving both their all. Or maybe it’s a kid who’s doing great with online learning, while missing their friends and usual activities. Bonus if you have a little “I’m proud of you” gift, that could be something as small as a coffee or hot chocolate, just like the person likes it.

6. Tell someone in the service industry—a mailman, a grocery store employee, any other essential worker—they’re doing a great job, and why.

I know several essential workers who’ve had less-than-pleasant pandemic experiences, either because of mask-related confrontations or customers taking their stress out on them. Take a minute to recognize the wonderful job someone is doing and let them know specifically why you appreciate their efforts, whether it’s their skill, their know-how, their energy, or the kindness they show to the people they’re serving.

7. If someone around you seems overwhelmed, ask if they want to relax together for a few minutes, without having to talk, and listen to some of their favorite songs.

I don’t know about you, but I always feel good when I listen to my favorite music, but I don’t always think to take a few minutes to relax and turn on some tunes when I feel a sense of urgency to get things done. It’s a simple thing that just takes a few minutes, but it can be wonderfully rejuvenating!

8. Take pictures of things that make you laugh or smile today and text them to people you love.

This is another win/win because you will likely notice things that will make you smile that you wouldn’t have noticed if you weren’t consciously looking for them, and you’ll give someone else a smile or laugh when they least expect it.

I remember texting my brother a picture of a tree that appeared to have a…. male body part. I know, very immature, but also very funny! I texted him “Look, a treenis!” and we both had a good laugh.

9. Compliment someone on a body part—for its function, not how it looks—when you notice them doing something they might not recognize as impressive.

For example, tell someone you’re amazed by their arm strength when they lift something heavy, or you’re impressed by their endurance after they complete a long workout. Or tell someone, as they’re chugging water or eating a kale salad, that you’re really inspired by how well they take care of themselves and how it helps them stay healthy and strong.

10. Set aside at least fifteen minutes today to do something fun that gets you into a state of flow.

This list wouldn’t be complete without a mindful act of kindness for ourselves! I don’t know about you, but I sometimes think, “I’ll relax when I finish…” and then find that the time never comes. So, to make sure I practice self-care, I need to schedule it in, between all the things I need to get done.

Some of my favorite flow activities include walking outside, coloring in an adult coloring book, doing a few yoga poses, and singing along to show tunes. Find your flow, however you can. Do something childlike. Do something fun. Do something mindless. Give yourself a chance to relax and enjoy, because you work hard, and you deserve it! And even if you don’t work hard, you still deserve it, simply for being you.

I hope these ideas inspire you to spread a little extra love in your home and virtual sphere of influence! And I would love to hear any ideas you have to add to the list—or any stories of kindness you’ve recently witnessed or experienced.

Just sharing your story is an act of kindness, because you never know who could inspire or uplift.

To help us feel more present and peaceful, I’m currently running a holiday sale for my newly launched Mindfulness Kit, which includes four aromatherapy-based products for stress-relief and relaxation and three FREE bonus guides for daily calm. For a limited time, it’s available for $29 (usually $45).  I hope it brings a little serenity to you or the people you love!

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