In 2000, a sleepy little movie titled “Pay it Forward” introduced the world to the idea of paying a favor forward to other people instead of paying it back. In the film, seventh-grader Trevor contrives a system in which people do favors for three new people in response to a favor visited on them. In just a few short generations, this system turns a single favor into a widely branching network of good deeds that can expand forever.
Paying a favor back is a one-for-one exchange. Paying it forward can change the world forever. Of course, there’s no reason why you couldn’t pay a favor back and forward simultaneously. For that matter, you could simply engage in unprovoked random acts of kindness. Don’t have a favor to pay forward? Do someone a favor anyway. You’ll spread a little goodwill, improve someone else’s life, and make the world just a little bit nicer to live in.
Wednesday was Random Act of Kindness Day, a holiday created to motivate selfless behavior around the globe. There are a few competing genesis narratives. One says the holiday got its start in Colorado. Another gives New Zealand credit, though they celebrate on September 1st. What’s certain is that the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has picked up the holiday’s mission and is working to spread its message around the world.
Did you get a chance to perform a random act of kindness? If not, it’s never too late. In fact, the RAK Foundation has expanded the holiday to include the entire week around the 17th, which means you still have two days to celebrate!
SEE ALSO: National Send a Card to a Friend Day
HOW TO CELEBRATE
The basic idea isn’t hard to grasp. Go out and do something nice for someone — just because. It can be someone you know or a complete stranger. You could help someone complete a difficult task, give moral support to someone that needs it, or just pay someone a heartfelt compliment. The particulars aren’t important as long as you’re spreading kindness.
The RAK Foundation is looking for RAKtivists (their term) to help create a groundswell of good deeds. Their website details a weeklong plan for celebrating the holiday, keeping you focused on the spirit of the mission. If you missed the celebrations this year just move it all to next week!
Sunday, February 14th
The festivities kick off with a kindness jar. If you have kids, have them help you decorate a mason jar. Throughout the week, jot down a short memory for every act of kindness you commit. Then, at the end of the week, pull them back out and think about the good you accomplished.
Monday, February 15th
Today you’re tasked with sending two love notes, one to yourself and one to someone important to you. We here at Simply Noted love this one. Handwritten notes are our bread and butter.
The first should list all of your positive attributes as a reminder to yourself that you’re a valuable person. Seal it up and hide it away for some point in the future when you need it. In the second, tell your loved one what they mean to you, and how they improve your life. Seal that one up and put it in the mail.
SEE ALSO: Gratitude is a Business Strategy
Tuesday, February 16th
Your good deed for today will help a random stranger. Prepare a blessing bag and keep it in your car until you need it. The bag will contain items helpful for a displaced person, like dental care products, socks, sunscreen, and pull-top canned foods.
When you see someone in need, get out of your car and hand-deliver the bag to them. Let them know that they’re cared for.
SEE ALSO: Nonprofit Fundraising Ideas in 2021
Wednesday, February 17th
On this, the official Random Act of Kindness Day, you’ll transform repetitive daily activities into moments for kindness. Choose five day-to-day activities and add a kindness component.
For example, if you get a coffee each day on your way to work, start picking up an extra item to give away to someone in the office. While you do the dishes each evening, try to come up with a kindness someone else bestowed on you recently and resolve to thank them.
Thursday, February 18th
Go to careforthree.com and download their heart template. Use this to cut out three heart-shaped notes from nice paper you have lying around and scribe on it a caring, supportive note to another person. The website features sample language if you’re having trouble.
In the note, request that they do the same for three people they know. Sound familiar? It’s “Pay it Forward” in note form, and it can quickly spread good vibes to people that need them.
Friday, February 19th
Today, make a $5 difference. Sometime within the next 24 hours, take $5 and do some good with it. You might add an additional $5 to your standard tip if you have takeout delivered. You could PayPal $5 to a stranger with a request to do something nice for someone. The choice is yours, just make someone’s day.
SEE ALSO: How to Thank Essential Workers
Saturday, February 20th
Revisit your kindness jar now and reflect on all the memories it contains. Think about what the week’s journey meant to you, and more importantly, what it meant to the people you impacted. This is your opportunity to appreciate the difference you made.
ACTS OF KINDNESS ARE GOOD FOR YOU
The interesting thing about altruism is that it benefits those doing good deeds just as much as those they’re helping. Studies have shown that kindness for its own sake stimulates the reward center of our brain. It makes us feel good to help others, and that feeling can be addictive. Can you imagine what the world would be like if more people got addicted to helping others?
Consistent applications of altruism have been shown to reduce blood pressure, lessen our sensitivity to pain, and boost overall happiness. Holding a charitable attitude toward others stimulates the production of oxytocin in the brain. Dubbed the “love hormone” oxytocin promotes feelings of generosity, friendliness, and trust. It helps bind relationships together and creates deeper experiences of our shared humanity.
Need some ideas for how to help? The RAK Foundation provides dozens of kindness ideas here. So get out there and do some good! You’ll enjoy better health and overall happiness while affecting positive changes for other people. And that’s good for all of us. It’s a win, win, win!