There are days in your life when you feel narcissistic. Maybe it’s because you’re feeling blue, things aren’t going your way, or it seems like the weight of the world is stacked against you. We’ve all been there. My tongue-in-cheek assertion is that you can practice acts of kindness, with the intention of having it benefit you. The side effect is that it serves others, too.
The next time a selfish day or mood arrives at your door, I recommend using that self-focused motivation to practice kindness. I know this sounds ironic, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t be kind for the greater good — that’s certainly a nice side effect and something I wholeheartedly believe in. But some days even the most virtuous of us can be self-absorbed, self-focused, and self-centered. And on those days, my advice is to honor the selfish space you are in — by focus on using kindness as a way to benefit none other than yourself. Sound strange? Keep reading so I can explain…
Whether you’re sick, sad, or stressed, here are three ironically self-serving ways kindness can save the day…
Practicing Kindness Can Improve Your Health
Providing emotional support to others was found to boost self-esteem, lower blood pressure, and decrease depression. Kindness can also increase oxytocin levels, the hormone that plays a key role in protecting the cardiovascular system. Research also suggests that oxytocin can slow down the aging process by reducing free radicals and inflammation. This goes for small acts of kindness, but studies also found that volunteering regularly may also help you live longer.
Practicing Kindness Can Reduce Stress
Doing good for others has been found to help lessen social anxieties. Even small acts of simple politeness have been found to mollify everyday stress levels, according to the Clinical Psychological Science Journal. (This can be as easy as holding a door open for a stranger or complimenting a coworker.)
Practicing Kindness Makes You Happier
When you display kindness, you increase dopamine to the brain, leaving you feeling happier and more energized. Studies have also shown that spending money on others boosts happiness levels. (Although you do not have to spend money to be kind.)
To practice selfish kindness, you don’t need much time or money. You don’t even need to be have the desire to be nice to people. All you need to do is place yourself at center stage and decide to do something that will ultimately make YOU feel good.
And, it just so happens that you’ll help make the world a better place, too. But that’s just an aside…. ;) Try one of these easy selfish acts of kindness.
44 Selfish Acts of Kindness
- Buy a box of granola bars and leave it in your car, offering one to someone who looks hungry along your way.
- Write an email to the manager of a coffee shop or grocery store that you frequent about an employee that you find extremely helpful and friendly.
- Offer to help an elderly person cross the street or load groceries into their car.
- Facebook message a friend from the past and thank them for something they did years ago.
- Hold the door open for a mom with her stroller.
- Offer to help someone with his or her luggage at the airport.
- Invite a friend over for dinner and cook something special for them. For bonus points, send them home with leftovers for lunch or dinner for their spouse.
- Bring breakfast for your favorite barista out of the blue.
- Offer to run an errand for a sick or injured friend.
- At your next social event, find someone who looks lonely or out of place, and strike up a conversation.
- Mentor a junior employee at work; offer to help them with their resume.
- Offer your expertise to a friend or someone who needs it. (Do you play the guitar? Offer a lesson. Are you personal trainer? Offer someone a free session. Are you good at algebra? Offer to tutor your friend’s kid. Do you make websites? Offer to create one for a friend or someone in need.)
- When someone needs to talk, listen with your full attention, without chiming in, offering advice, or getting distracted by your smart phone.
- Organize a craft night with your friends. Vow to gift the final product to a random person or donate the whole lot to a charity in need.
- Buy a deck of inspirational cards and leave them for people at random: on windshields, at desks, on doorsteps.
- Keep a can of soup at your desk and offer it to the next coworker who says they had to work through lunch.
- Next time you notice a coworker stressed out or overwhelmed, find out their favorite treat and pick up that smoothie, latte, or cookie for them during the mid-afternoon slump.
- Pay a toll for the car behind you at the tollbooth or pay the bus fare for someone standing behind you.
- Offer to babysit for a friend who needs a yoga class.
- Give your leftovers to a homeless person. Don’t forget to get plastic utensils and a napkin.
- Offer to jump-start someone’s car or call for help, if you see them stuck on the side of the road.
- Offer to schedule time with a new coworker to answer any questions they may have about the inner-workings of the company.
- Make eye contact. We need more connection in the world, so lift your attention from your smart phone and look at everyone you see, offering a smile and acknowledging their presence.
- Give your spouse a massage without expecting one in return.
- Organize a clothing swap with your friends. Each of you can bring a box of clothes and take home a few gems. Donate everything else to a charity.
- Buy an extra cup of coffee or warm breakfast and offer it to the homeless person standing outside the door.
- Nominate someone for an award that deserves it. i.e. a “best boss” or “employee of the year” award.
- Introduce a job-hunting friend to a new connection (or 10).
- Offer to pet sit for a friend who needs help. Give the pet lots of love while their owner is out of town.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen, orphanage or women’s shelter.
- Send a care package to a friend in another state for no reason.
- Offer directions to someone who looks lost. If you have time, offer to walk them to their destination.
- Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t particularly like. Look for something good in his or her character during the conversation.
- Buy a box of thank you notes and leave it for your team at work or your family at home. Tell everyone to use them whenever someone does something they appreciate.
- Treat a friend to a yoga class or invite someone to be your guest at your gym.
- Offer to help someone move. Or, if you see people moving and you happen to have a free 20 minutes, offer to make a few trips to the truck for them.
- Leave nice comments on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (even to strangers.)
- Offer the gardener, plumber, or handyman a cup of coffee or tea.
- Gently distract the grumpy kids sitting next to you on the plane. Offer to read them a book or tell them a funny story so their parents can have a short break.
- Offer to donate your vacation time or sick days to a coworker struggling with a long-term illness or taking care of a sick parent or kid.
- Promote a friend’s small business or website via email or social media: If they are a life coach, personal trainer, personal chef, caterer, nanny, wedding planner, or run any type of blog, it means the world to them that you have their back and are telling others about their services.
- The next time you have leftovers, bring a meal to your neighbor, offering them dinner or a packed lunch for the day ahead.
- Offer to cook dinner for new parents while they are caring for their newborn.
- Buy lemonade at the next lemonade stand you pass. Commend the kids on a job well done. For bonus points, buy two and tell them to gift the next lemonade to the next person who walks by.
If you tried these and are looking even more ideas, check out the article I wrote for the Chopra Center that includes 99 ways to show kindness.