Blog · Student Life

Help Others, Help Yourself

This past summer on a hot afternoon in New York City, I sat down on a bench with some iced coffee, scrolled through my Twitter feed, and people-watched. I looked to the next bench over and noticed a very old woman hunched over her cane, and was surprised she would decide to sit out in the sun. I felt bad, but ignored her and continued to hit the refresh button on my phone.

A few minutes later, I looked over at the woman again to see a young man in a suit walk up to her and say, “You look hot, take my water bottle.” The woman slowly looked up, smiled at him, took the water and began to drink it while he continued to stand by and make sure she was okay.

The exchange still stands out to me as one of the kindest things I’ve ever seen happen between strangers. I mean, clearly the man had nothing to gain from doing this.

Or did he?

Recent studies show that simple acts of kindness can improve your mood and pump up your self-esteem and happiness levels.

A study published by York University in 2011 shows that when people were asked to behave considerately or helpfully toward another person for just a few minutes a day over the course of six months, they reported much greater self-esteem and happiness than the control group.

Other studies show these acts can help strengthen your immune system by decreasing your stress levels. Senior citizens who commit themselves to kindness through volunteer work may even live longer than those who don’t.

If your still not convinced, try these simple acts of kindness that can fit into your everyday routine.

1. Help someone out. Ask if you can help. Do a chore your roommate usually does before they get home. Give up your seat on the bus to someone who’s holding something. Pick up a dropped pencil. Offer directions to someone who looks lost.

2. Be a good listener. After asking how someone is doing, be engaged while listening to his or her response. Ask a follow-up question.

3. Make others feel special. Send a friend at a different school a handwritten letter, especially around finals week. Make a positive comment on a website or blog. Call Grandma. Buy a friend a cup of coffee when you buy your own. Pick up something for a friend that you know they will like. Send homemade birthday cards. Support someone by going to an event they are involved in.

4. Be polite. “Please” and “Thank you” go a long way, even for adults.

5. Give. Clean out your closet and give what you don’t want to the Goodwill. Leave a coin in a candy machine or a washing machine. Offer someone a piece of gum. Leave a good tip.

6. Compliment people generously.Tell them you like their haircut. “Like” their profile picture on Facebook. Tell them their presentation in class was really good. Make sure you are genuine.

You might be surprised how much your simple act of kindness can brighten up your own day as well.

By Juliana LaBianca

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