What makes you happy? Grabbing everything that you can for yourself? Chasing career success and material gains? Having fulfilling relationships? Or indulging in worldly pleasure and luxury?
It turns out none of these can bring you long-lasting happiness and satisfaction. Scientific research and anecdotal evidence have both suggested that helping others, especially when you do so without expecting returns, is the real source of joy and contentment in life.
When we help others, the mesolimbic system in our brain is activated. This part pertains to the reward reinforcement system and gives rise to the feeling of joy and satisfaction when we receive rewards, such as food, money, and sex. That is to say, when we help others, it is as if we were getting financial gains and sexual pleasure.
From a spiritual point of view, that helping others makes us feel good is based on a simple but beautiful premise: we are all one. Therefore, you can never help others and improve their welling-beings without simultaneously helping yourself and improving your own life.
On the other hand, helping others is our nature. We are love and light, and we naturally care for others unconditionally. Helping, especially in the form of random acts of kindness, is the ultimate demonstration of love and compassion. We are embracing our true self when we help others, which is why it feels so good.
I used to dismiss these views. Helping others seemed like self-deprecation to me, and I didn’t know what I could give while I had so little. Until an incident completely changed my opinion. It made me realize that an act of kindness, however insignificant it may seem, is good enough to make a world of difference in someone else’s life and, in turn, bring joy back to me.
It was a late night at the ferry terminal in a coastal city in China. I was waiting for a cab after getting off from the last ferry. One came, and the driver asked me where I was heading. I told him the address. He was apparently disappointed because the place wasn’t far from the terminal.
Like other drivers who had been waiting at the terminal, he expected to take someone who needed a long ride so that he could make some good money before the end of the day.
He drove on without saying anything (while other drivers might have growled and complained about their “bad luck”). While I couldn’t blame myself for “ruining” his chance of making some big bucks of the day, I also felt sorry for him (Tell me about an Empath!) So I paid him more than what the meter charged without asking for changes at the end of the trip.
He was surprised, so I told him that I knew he had waited for a long time and then thanked him for the ride.
“I appreciate it,” he said to me as I got off the cab.
The words touched me to the extent that I couldn’t make sense of, and I even felt a sensation running through my body and melting my heart. I was glad that I had done something applaudable.
It was a lousy day for me, but this interaction brightened my mood. I got to spend the rest of the night with love and a sense of fulfillment without focusing on the doom and gloom of the day.
In retrospect, I couldn’t help but ask, “Did I help or was I helped?”
The Power of Random Acts of Kindness
Random acts of kindness have potent power because they lift both the one that gives and the one that receives. As the giver, you bring light to the receiver and, by doing so, take your focus away from what you lack to what you have. When you help others, you are showing the Universe that you have more than enough. The vibration of abundance and appreciation will raise your vibration in an instant.
As the receiver, you take on the energy of love and compassion—which is healing and therapeutic—besides the actual assistance you receive. Interactions between two people is an exchange of energies. When the giver embodies unconditional love and lends a helping hand to the other person, the receiver feels the energy, no matter how insignificant that act may appear. It is the energy of love without terms and conditions that truly brings light to the receiver, who then passes it on to others and thus create a positive cycle.
Love is contagious. A random act of kindness has far-reaching impacts beyond imagination. Tony Robbins, now a successful motivational speaker in the U.S., grew up in a poor household and would struggle to make ends meet. His family ran out of money on one Easter and couldn’t afford any food. Someone helped and delivered them something to eat.
It was this one meal for the then helpless family that inspired Robbins to help tens of thousands of other people to become happy and prosperous later.
An act of kindness is like throwing a stone into the water. It creates ripples that propagate outward and touch the entire body of water.
36 Random Acts of Kindness that You Can Do Daily
We’re wired to help and we could all make a difference. Here are 36 random acts of kindness that you can practice on a daily basis. It is not how much you can give but how much love you put into the giving that truly matters. When the help is provided with unconditional love and kindness, a small dose is enough to create a ripple in the vast ocean.
And it doesn’t just lift others—it lights you up as well.
Let’s see what they are.
1. Hold the door for someone else.
2. Compliment the person you just met.
3. Text or call a friend or a relative to see how they’re doing.
4. Offer to bring food or medication to a friend who’s sick.
5. Say thank you and smile to the person who provided you service.
6. Compliment a colleague for their excellent work.
7. Bring snacks to the office.
8. Write a gratitude letter to someone who has been supportive of you. Tell them how much you appreciate their help.
9. Donate blood.
10. Donate items that you no longer need but could be valuable for others, such as clothes, books, home appliances, etc.
11. Buy an inspirational book for a friend.
12. Treat a friend to a movie.
13. Give “likes” to and share your comments on about the online content you consume, such as on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, etc.
14. Donate money to charities.
15. Listen to someone without interrupting.
16. Buy a birthday present for a friend without expecting him or her to do the same.
17. Give a big tip to someone whose services you enjoy.
18. If you see rubbish on the street, pick it up.
19. Leave a few dollars on the shelf when you shop in a supermarket
20. Refer a friend for a job position.
21. Say thank you to the bus driver.
22. Help friends or family move.
23. Donate blood.
24. Give money to homeless people.
25. “Like” or write something nice on friend’s updates on social media.
26. Offer to help a colleague solve a problem.
27. Hold the elevator for someone else.
28. When someone asks for direction, take them to the place if you can.
29. Strike up a conversation with someone who’s by themselves in a party.
30. Help make sure that everyone has a chance to speak during a group discussion.
31. Talk nice.
32. Share your knowledge without needing approvals.
33. Buy a meal for the homeless people on the street.
34. In the supermarket, if the person behind has just one or two items while you have a lot, let them pay ahead of you.
35. Call your parents and siblings and tell them you love them.
36. Keep a gratitude journal.
Even though it was a while ago, recalling that evening still makes me smile. I am grateful for the driver not only for lighting up my day but also for teaching me a valuable lesson: helping others is helping yourself.
Do you have any other random acts of kindness ideas? Please share them below!