Ever heard of “paying it forward” or “random acts of kindness”?
I have read much research on how giving can affect a person’s mind, body, & soul. You can read one of these studies here, or do a quick internet search yourself. According to the linked study at Berkeley’s Greater Good website (Suttie & Marsh, 2010), giving can promote feelings of happiness, is good for your health, helps you in feeling connected with others, promotes feelings of gratitude, and can encourage others to give as well.
Pay It Forward
I became interested in how random acts of kindness and giving affect overall well-being many years ago when I watched the movie Pay It Forward (Hyde, 1999) with my then 10 year-old daughter. We watched it because she had a huge crush on Haley Joel Osment, but the main plot in the movie was about how giving can elicit social change. The concept is that performing an act of kindness for someone can be paid forward to others, rather than returning the kindness to the giver. I’m not going any further with movie details or provide any spoilers, but I encourage you to watch the movie if you’re interested in the topic. A warning though, it does contain mature themes, including substance use, language, and the mother works in a strip club, although there is nothing too explicit. I’m not quite sure how to appropriately credit the movie, so I’m not going to post the trailer, but here is the link to IMDb, so you can read about the movie and/or watch the trailer. I highly urge you to check out the Pay It Forward book, as well. There’s also a children’s version. In addition to the books and movie, a foundation based on the Pay It Forward movement has been created, which can be accessed through Ryan’s website or through an internet search.
Random Acts of Kindness
Random acts of kindness, is a self-explanatory concept. They are acts of kindness, that are random, without any expectation of reciprocity (a return of kindness). The benefits of random acts of kindness are far-reaching, for self and for society as a whole. Research has provided evidence of stress-relief, social change, and increased happiness, among many more benefits, according to the Random Acts of Kindness website, which can be found here. There is even evidence that merely witnessing others being kind can have some of the same positive effects of giving, which can also be found at randomactsofkindness.org in the research area of the site.
I have always engaged in paying it forward and random acts of kindness on a regular basis, without consideration of the wellness benefits, just because it’s the right thing to do. To me, the overall well-being benefits of giving is a bonus; or come to think of it, it has been an integral part of keeping balance in my life as long as I can remember. Maybe that is the reason for me being an eternal optimist.
If you are a giver, please ensure that you’re not taken advantage of and maintain healthy boundaries when it comes to giving. Giving is truly much better than receiving, but know where your limits are. There are many ways to give other than monetarily. The key is to perform a kind act without expecting anything in return. Below is a list of suggestions:
- smile at someone
- hold a door open for someone
- offer to carry someone’s bags of groceries
- wave and/or say, “hello”
- leave encouraging post-it notes around your home or work site
- let someone go ahead of you in line at the store
- put an extra stray shopping cart in the stall
- take your shopping cart back into the store instead of leaving it outside
- send a random text with a positive message
- post positive things on social media
- pick flowers and give them to someone you know is struggling
- pray for someone
- lend a hand to someone in need
- listen to an older person’s life story
- offer to tutor (for free) a child that is struggling in a subject in which you excel
- sign up at randomactsofkindness.org
How do you give?
Pay It Forward [Motion Picture]. (2000). Warner Home Video./ Retrieved February 28, 2015. Warner Home Video, 2000. video.
Hyde, Catherine Ryan. Pay It Forward. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Print.
Internet Movie Database. (1990-2016). Pay It Forward. Retrieved from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0223897/
Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. (2016). https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/
Suttie, J. & Marsh, J. (2010).5 Ways Giving Is Good for You. The Greater Good Science Center. University of California at Berkeley. Retrieved from: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you