You’ve seen it on the bus, when someone offers his or her seat to an elderly person: The generous person feels noble, the elderly person beams with gratitude, and even spectators feel like cheering inside just from having witnessed a simple act of kindness. As it turns out, the effects of those experiences aren’t just psychological. Those who study the science of do-gooding have discovered that performing (or even just imagining performing) a good deed has major physiological benefits — for the giver, not just the recipient. Naturally, we don’t behave in benevolent ways to benefit from our actions…but just between us, the side effects are awesome.
1. Leave a bouquet at the hospital — the nurses will know who needs it the most.
2. Make a struggling family’s summer by buying them a season pass to the municipal pool.
3. Help a friend see today in a wondrous new light: Hand him or her a kaleidoscope.
4. If you are in a long line, invite the person behind you to go first.
5. Shower the pediatric wing of a hospital with £1 coloring books and £2 boxes of new crayons.
6. Hang a sign on a bulletin board that says “Take What You Need” — with tear-off tabs at the bottom for Love, Hope, Faith, and Courage.
7. Bring courtesy back in an instant: Hold the door open with a flourish.
8. Drop off combs, toothbrushes, and toothpaste at a shelter or a soup kitchen.
9. Curb road rage: Let other cars merge onto the motorway.
10. Leave your neighbors a note that tells them how much joy you find in admiring their garden.
11. Put sticky notes with positive messages (e.g., “You look gorgeous!”) on a bathroom mirror.