Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is be kind. Such is the sentiment behind Random Acts of Kindness Week, which takes place Feb. 9 through 15.

During this week, people are encouraged to commit random acts of kindness that brighten people’s days. Kindness is contagious, and spreading good cheer reverberates throughout the world. Often people who receive a random act of kindness are then compelled to spread the love. All these acts of kindness make the world a better place.

What is a random act of kindness?

During Random Acts of Kindness Week, people are encouraged to step out of their normal routine and do something nice for others.

Acts can be as simple as a smile—smile at a stranger while walking down the street, in the grocery store, or waiting to get coffee. You might pay it forward by buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line. Practice kindness anonymously by leaving a special note on a stranger’s car windshield. It might say, “You are wonderful,” or “Thanks for being a special person.”

Those with chronic pain may consider treating their caregiver with extra love during Random Acts of Kindness Week. You might write a thank you note expressing appreciation for all the things the caregiver does, paint a picture and offer it as a present, or write a poem. Don’t worry about creating award-worthy work—anything that comes from the heart will be appreciated and make the recipient feel loved.

Caregivers or others who know someone with chronic pain might spread the Random Acts of Kindness Week love by cooking a healthy dinner for their friend or loved one. Take the person out to lunch or simply write a nice note telling the person how much they mean to you.

Sometimes the most heartfelt things are the most appreciated. You needn’t spend a single dollar to make someone feel special. Even just telling someone they are awesome could make a person’s entire day.

What is the idea behind Random Acts of Kindness Week?

So often we move through our days wrapped up in trivialities. Random Acts of Kindness Week reminds us that we’re all connected, and the most important thing we can do as we move through this experience of life is to be kind and support each other.

Valentine’s Day, the annual celebration of love and romance, also falls during Random Acts of Kindness Week. While it’s nice to gift our significant others and loved ones with flowers and chocolate, it’s just as important, if not more, to remind the people in our lives how special they are and how much they mean to us.

We often take it for granted that our loved ones will be with us tomorrow and the day after that. But life is unpredictable. It’s important to let people know how much they mean to us every day. Valentine’s Day and the entire Random Acts of Kindness Week is an opportune time to remember that nothing in life is guaranteed, and one of the most powerful, important things we can do is let people know they are loved.

Smile at a stranger. It could change a person’s whole day.

Random Acts of Kindness Week is a time to spread kindness and make the world a better place by simply being nice. Think what a better place the world would be if we all made an effort every day to spread kindness.

Does kindness really matter?

If love makes the world go ‘round, kindness lubricates the wheel. While the effects of kindness are difficult to measure in an objective way, anyone who has been the recipient of a random act of kindness can surely report that it made their heart swell with appreciation.

And kindness does beget more kindness, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. People on the receiving end of random acts of kindness were inclined to spread the love and commit their own acts of kindness. Just as loneliness and selfishness are contagious, so too is kindness, researchers report.

A kindness initiative in Singapore even shifted social norms, reports the British Broadcasting Corporation. Movement leader William Wan says:

“It definitely makes a difference…People are starting to give up their seats on buses now, which they never used to do.”

The BBC also reports there are critics of kindness. Barbara Oakley, author of Pathological Altruism, says helping others is mostly narcissistic. But is it really a crime to feel good by helping others?

Ultimately, it’s a choice people make every day, whether to be kind, indifferent, or hurtful. We all have the power to influence the world in a positive way just by being kind.

And ultimately, how we treat ourselves is the clearest indication of how we treat others. So during Random Acts of Kindness Week, don’t forget to spoil yourself. Take a hot bath, reserve time with a cup of tea and your favorite book, or escape to a local park or nature preserve. Let your entire body fill up with kind feelings toward yourself and they’ll naturally flow outwards.

Simple ways to spread kindness

The best thing about kindness is that it doesn’t have to cost anything, and it can be fun. You might take time to read a book to a child. Write a heartfelt note on a post-it note and place it on someone’s mirror, or even in a public restroom.

Give someone a hug or offer friendly words of encouragement. Say thank you. Let someone ahead of you in line. Dole out compliments. Offer an extra large tip.

If you need help finding inspiration for random acts of kindness, visit the movement’s official website for ideas. Whether you spend 30 seconds or 30 minutes spreading kindness, know that your good intentions are reverberating throughout the world, making people happy. Doesn’t that feel good?

Do you plan to participate in Random Acts of Kindness Week?

Image by Wade M via Flickr

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