Random acts of kindness

World Kindness Day: From words of kindness to random acts of kindness

You may or may not know this, but there’s a day in the calendar that’s dedicated to nothing, but being 100% kind.

The day is World Kindness Day, which this year takes place on November 13. Run by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, it’s aimed at, in their words, ‘making kindness the norm.’

And this goal applies absolutely to everyone and everywhere, from embracing and encouraging kindness in schools and workplaces, to homes and communities, there really are no limits to spreading the kindness vibe.

The foundation is on a mission to convert as many people as possible into RAKtivists, AKA Random Acts of Kindness activists. According to the foundation’s latest tally, there are RAKtivists everywhere, 34,251 from across 89 different countries, and counting!

This year, World Kindness Day comes on the back of the latest Mental Health Awareness Week campaign, which took place in the summer, being dedicated to kindness.

The Mental Health Foundation, the organisation behind the campaign, say they choose to focus on kindness because of ‘its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity.’ Furthermore, the foundation wanted to shine a light on the many examples of Covid-19-related kindness that had come to light, and continue to come to light worldwide.1

The meaning of kindness

According to the Oxford Dictionary, kindness is a noun that’s described as being ‘the quality of being, friendly, generous and considerate.'2 Meanwhile, from a more practical perspective, the Mental Health Foundation describes kindness as being when we choose to do something to help others. For instance, by putting their needs before our own and being motivated to do so by the warm, genuine feelings they have in relation to being kind.3

In terms of what this looks like in reality, being kind can be as simple as opening the door for somebody, giving way while you are driving, smiling when somebody looks at you or making a cup of tea for a colleague. The act of being kind can be as small or as big as you like.

The benefits of being kind

First up, being kind makes others feel good and it also makes us feel good in the process. We can probably all relate to that fuzzy, warm feeling we’ve had when we’ve done something nice for somebody, be it a family member, friend or colleague, and they’ve really appreciated what we’ve done.

But being kind also happens to have more of a deeper impact on us. The British Psychological Society say being kind to others and ourselves can be good for our psychological wellbeing all-year round.

Studies have found being kind:

  • Increases oxytocin production, which is responsible for lots of things, including how happy we feel which, in turn can boost our self-esteem levels
  • Gives those, who are being kind, a dopamine rush, which is strongly associated with feeling happy
  • May also increase our serotonin, which is responsible for positive mood and general wellbeing4

What are examples of random acts of kindness?

We’ve already briefly touched on some random acts of kindness, but there are many, many more than that! Going back to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation and their World Kindness Day campaign, they’ve (very kindly) listed lots of ways you can be kind to others, which include:

  1. Be kind to your waiter.
  2. Complimenting other drivers on how well they’ve parked.
  3. Planting a tree (because we can all be kinder to the environment too)
  4. Putting a positive comment in response to a social media post you’ve enjoyed.
  5. Texting somebody ‘good morning’ or ‘good night.’
  6. Pulling your neighbour’s wheelie bin in or out for them.
  7. Writing a handwritten letter.
  8. Planting a vegetable or herb garden.
  9. Filling your bird feeders up.
  10. Donating your used books to charity or a library.
  11. Cooking a meal for somebody.
  12. Thanking somebody every week.
  13. Sharing your favourite recipe.
  14. Leaving a generous tip.
  15. Complaining less.

You’ll see from this list of random acts of kindness that being kind isn’t just about looking out for others, but being kind to yourself, as well as the environment and nature.

There are words of kindness too

Acts of kindness help to reinforce the practice of being kind, whether that’s doing something kind or saying something kind. And when it comes to the latter, there are all sorts of kindness-related quotes out there that help illustrate and reinforce how powerful it can be.

Here are some of our favourites, which are featured on the Random Act of Kindness Foundation’s website:5
  1. ‘Always be kinder than necessary.’ – JM Barrie.
  2. ‘The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been kindness, beauty and truth.’ – Albert Einstein.
  3. ‘Kindness is spreading sunshine into other people’s lives, regardless of the weather.’ – RAKtivist.
  4. ‘If you can be anything, be kind.’ – Unknown.
  5. ‘Kindness is love made visible.’ – H Swanepole, RAKtivist.
  6. ‘Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference.’ – Helen James.

Is there a Random Acts of Kindness Day?

Yes, there is. Random Acts of Kindness Day takes place in America on February 17 and in New Zealand on September 1 and, much like National Kindness Day, is aimed at encouraging individuals, groups and organisations nationwide to carry out random acts of kindness.

Random Acts Of Kindness Day was first created in Denver, Colorado in 1995, and nine years later it spread to New Zealand in 2004. The random acts of kindness can involve just about everything and is aimed at making the world a better place by spreading a little light around.6

Kindness exists in many forms and is appreciated by everybody, including ourselves. What will your next act of kindness be?

For more on being kinder to yourself read, ‘The importance of self-care.’

Last updated: 9 November 2020

Mental Health