We all perform acts of kindness at one time or another. These acts may be large or small, and their beneficiaries may not even be aware of them. Yet their effects can be profound—not only on the recipient but on the giver, as well. This exercise asks you to perform five acts of kindness in one day as a way of cultivating feelings of kindness and happiness in yourself, so that you can extend kindness to your local community and the world.
Varies depending on your acts of kindness. Could be anywhere from several minutes to several hours.
One day this week, perform five acts of kindness—all five in one day. It doesn’t matter if the acts are big or small, but it is more powerful if you perform a variety of acts.
The acts do not need to be for the same person—the person doesn’t even have to be aware of them. Examples include feeding a stranger's parking meter, picking up litter, helping a friend with a chore, or providing a meal to a person in need.
After each act, write down what you did in at least one or two sentences; for more of a happiness boost, also write down how it made you feel.
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 111-131.
People who performed five acts of kindness every week for six weeks saw a significant boost in happiness, but only if they performed their five acts in a single day rather than spread out over each week. This may be because many acts of kindness are small, so spreading them out might make them harder to remember and savor.
Who Has Tried The Practice?
While there is no demographic information in the study above, additional studies explore how this exercise benefits other groups and cultures:
More research is needed to explore whether, and how, the impact of this practice extends to other groups and cultures.
Researchers believe this practice makes you feel happier because it makes you think more highly of yourself and become more aware of positive social interactions. It may also increase your kind, helpful attitudes and tendencies toward others in your family or your community. Evidence suggests that variety is key: There's a risk that kindness can start to feel routine, so it helps to approach it with a spirit of curiosity, always looking for new ways to express your care and kindness and looking for new people to help.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., University of California, Riverside