The goal of the ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ exercise is to increase wellbeing by consciously performing acts of kindness. Becoming more aware of one‘s own kind behaviour toward other people has been found to increase subjective wellbeing (Otake et al., 2006).
A study by Lyubomirsky, Tkach, and Yelverton (2004) tested the impact of kindness of wellbeing. In their intervention, Lyubomirsky and colleagues asked students to perform five random acts of kindness per week, over the course of six weeks.
These kindness acts were described as behaviours that benefit others or make others happy, typically at some cost to themselves (e.g., cook a meal for someone, donating blood, help someone with yard work or offering your seat to an elderly, disabled or pregnant person).
Students in the control group did not receive any kindness instructions. The results of this study showed that the students who performed the random acts of kindness experienced an increase in happiness, whereas the control group experienced a slight decrease. These findings support the idea that deliberately practicing kindness positively impacts well-being.
This exercise is typically used as “homework” for the client. After the first week or so, the exercise can be evaluated in terms of effects for the client as well as his environment.
How did people react? What did it feel like to act in this way? Etc. Inform clients that kindness can involve both small and big gestures; let a car get in front of you or helping someone move.
Theory into practice
There are all sorts of random acts of kindness you can try out. Here are a couple of examples:
- Book the middle seat if you’re going to no-show for a flight, so the people sitting on either side get a free seat between them.
- Buy a coffee for the next person at Starbucks.
- Give people you interact with a genuine compliment about something you like about them.
- Write a kind message for someone on a piece of paper and put it in his/her bag.
More great tips and ideas for random acts of kindness can be found at: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org
Client Suggested Readings Lyubomirsky, S., Tkach, C., & Yelverton, J. (2004). Pursuing sustained happiness through random acts of kindness and counting one’s blessings: Tests of two six-week interventions. Unpublished data, University of California,
Riverside, Department of Psychology. Otake, K., Shimai, S., Tanaka-Matsumi, J., Otsui, K., & Frederickson, B. L. (2006). Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting kindnesses intervention. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 361–375.