Lately, I've been feeling trapped. Quite literally inside small hotel rooms with little kids and in a cycle of shifting foundations. Getting off track and without access to my usual foundational health habits on the move, it's easy to worry and stress and get too much in a heady spiral. This is why I'm thinking about and writing today to focus on doing for others.
Doing something kind and helpful for another person could make their day a little better and potentially improve our mood, in turn. Merely recognizing we've made someone else's day more satisfying can leave us in a more positive state.
Research on the science behind why kindness towards others makes us feel fulfilled (and healthy) assembles around oxytocin (aka the 'love hormone').1 This crucial hormone helps us form social bonds from breastfeeding moms to newly-in-love couples. It helps us with trust and generosity. The good news is that acts of kindness are like fuel for oxytocin plus dopamine and serotonin. This combination is what gives us a phenomenon called "helper's high."2
The trick is to keep it going because a single act of kindness isn't going to last more than a few minutes or hours. Kindness and compassion towards others are most beneficial as a repetitive practice—something we work into our daily lives. It can be volunteering your time, sharing your food or good fortune with friends, family, or coworkers (constant work with Hawk and Henry), or simply opening and holding the door for others.
Showing up with kindness is a win-win for everyone. Everyone receives help and a boost when we willingly give. We also feed a cycle that models for more sharing and reciprocation for our connections and communities.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
Volunteer at the closest shelter to your home or work.
Give out flowers or baked goods randomly to close friends or in your community
Pay for someone's parking meter or the person in line behind you.
Leave a detailed positive review for one of your favorite shops or restaurants.
Run a 5K or another event for a good cause.
Volunteer to clean up litter along a roadway.
Leave a note of encouragement under people's windshield wipers.
What are you waiting for? Which act are you going to try first?