A lot of times, we tend to think that being happy means getting, having, and doing things for ourselves. But a 2005 study by Stanford University psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky – and generations of moral fables and other literature – point to quite the opposite. Doing acts of kindness can really boost your sense of happiness and self-worth.
When you make a poi nt of going out of your way to help someone, it gives you a sense of control – here's something good you can choose to do – and satisfaction. You're doing something that really matters when you help someone out. You're making a difference.
Acts of kindness also tend to elicit appreciation, which makes you, the giver, feel especially good inside. Kind acts give you a sense of purpose, and can help to assuage anger and grief over personal loss.
Here are some ways you can create kindness in your own life.
* Visit a relative. Maybe your grandparent or parent is in assisted living or a nursing home. Or maybe your relative lives at home and you just haven't visited for awhile. Invite your relative over for a meal, or go visit him or her.
* Offer to run errands. Many people are just unable to do some of the everyday things that most of us take for granted. See if you can go to the grocery store for an ill neighbor, or for a busy mom.
* Do some yard work for someone. If you notice weeds and brush taking over someone's yard, go ask if you can help. If you can't do the work yourself, get others to help you.
* Offer to babysit. Give a busy couple or parent a break by offering to watch their children for awhile.
* Write notes, cards, or letters to acquaintances. Try to do this when it's not a holiday – a note that someone receives "just because" means a lot. In this day of electronic communication, a nice card or note in the mail can be a real gift.
* If you spend regular time in the city, keep coins on hand and look for expired or about-to-expire parking meters. Buy the car owner a little extra time and help him or her avoid a ticket.
* Offer to pay for the person behind you at a drive-through restaurant.
* Vary your acts of kindness so that you don't get into a rut. It will no longer be as satisfying for you or the people you help if you are just going through the motions.