What does kindness mean to you? Kindness, by definition, involves being generous, friendly, and considerate. But it also has real benefits for the person being kind, from physical to mental well-being. 

“We all seek a path to happiness,” said Dr. Waguih William IsHak, a professor of psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai, on the Cedars-Sinai blog. “Practicing kindness toward others is one we know works.”

Random Acts of Kindness Day—on February 17—is the perfect time to brush off the dust on your kindness practice or ramp up your kindness effort. Here’s why you should make kindness part of your life—and some ideas to get you started:

Reasons to Practice Kindness

Sure, the obvious benefit of a kindness practice is the person receiving the kindness. But research shows that the person exercising the kindness might have bigger and better benefits. 

In a 2016 study, researchers found that people who practiced prosocial behavior—a.k.a., kindness—had increased positive emotions and decreased negative emotions. They concluded that people striving for happiness should treat others instead of themselves.

Other studies and research have looked at specific chemicals involved in helping others. Practicing kindness leads to the body releasing oxytocin, also known as the love hormone. Being kind also may be linked to releasing dopamine, which makes you feel good; substance P, which relieves pain; and serotonin, a mood regulator.

If practicing kindness includes volunteer work, you may also end up living a longer and healthier life. 

How to Practice Kindness

Practicing kindness can be a simple gesture for a neighbor or making a regular commitment to volunteering. Big or small, every act of kindness—random or not—can make a difference in your life and the lives of others. Here are ways you can practice kindness on February 17 or any day of the year:

  • Open a door for someone
  • Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in the drive-thru
  • Take your neighbor’s trash can to the curb
  • Leave money on a vending machine
  • Smile at a stranger
  • Write a thank-you note to a family member or a friend
  • Volunteer at your local food pantry, either one time or, better yet, make it a regular gig
  • Help people pull themselves out of poverty in your community by joining the Circles program as am ally
  • Pick up trash
  • Befriend a new coworker or neighbor

Random Acts of Kindness Day may be the perfect day to get started or re-evaluate your kindness practice, but making kindness part of your daily life has real value. It may make you happier, keep you physically and mentally healthier, and help you live a longer life. 

If you want to practice kindness through recurring or random volunteer work, Community Action Services and Food Bank has all kinds of opportunities available. Visit communityactionprovo.org/how-to-help/ for more information.