A little while ago, Chelsea — all round great person and member of the FYA family over at YLab — pitched an article on random acts of kindness and how it helps with wellbeing (both ours and the recipient). I said yes, obviously, go for it. I’m not a monster.
I kept thinking about this over the next little while, probably somewhat consciously looking for opportunities to do kind things for others. In this time I was reminded of something I’ve come to realise before — doing a good deed can be a bit tricky to execute proactively. Often I find myself waiting for the opportunity to come to me — whether it’s finding someone’s keys and going to great lengths to return them, or giving up a seat on public transport. The opportunity tends to present itself before I take the time to seek it out.
After discussing this at length with Chelsea, we decided to do an experiment to see which acts of kindness we could actually do for people and write all about it. So Chelsea, Sam, FYA’s Content Producer, and I all committed to seeing how many kind things we could do in a day.
Firstly, we set some ground rules:
- You can’t tell people you’re doing it. Firstly they might think you’re being disingenuous because it might seem like forced kindness, plus more honest reactions from people means more satisfaction for us (this is about us, right?).
- We each have 24hrs to conduct the experiment. But you can keep doing it beyond that point if you like. There’s no cap on kindness. Obviously.
- This is not a competition, but depending on your personality maybe it is.
Then we did it. And here’s what we learnt:
Chelsea Lang, YLab Associate
My day of kindness got off to a rocky start. I attempted to give up my spot on the train but no one wanted it, so I just ended up standing awkwardly next to an empty seat for a while.
Things started looking up when I paid for an extra coffee at my local cafe though – the lady behind me said thanks and told me that she too had paid it forward. That free caffeine hit was going to someone who really needed it! ????
After a few more F2F (that’s “face to face”, for those of you playing at home) kind moments with strangers, I was all peopled out. So I used my lunch break for some down time and picked up rubbish on the street. This was both extremely satisfying and extremely gross.
I spent the rest of the day yelling compliments at anyone who’d listen. I wrote a thank you note to someone who had helped me out through a rough time, and attempted to make dinner for some mates. They were either really into it, or really good at pretending.
Even though I was super tired by the end of the day, I went to sleep feeling a little bit lighter than I did when I woke up. This experiment helped me realise that by making my way through the world with the intention of being kind, I didn’t have as much space in my brain for all those little anxious thoughts that sneak up on me every now and again.
I’ve worked out that being kind isn’t always easy. It requires putting yourself out there, and being alright with the fact that you might not get kindness back in return. But that warm, happy feeling I got when I helped someone made it all totally worth it.
Sam Danby, Content Producer
The hardest part of an attempt to do as many kind things in a day as possible is, as I quickly learnt, remembering which day you decided to conduct the experiment. But after a false start, I was ready to try and make a few people smile.
The biggest learning: squeezing as many nice deeds into a day as possible is expensive. Maybe I wasn’t experienced enough in being able to identify cheap opportunities to complete nice deeds, wasn’t creative enough or potentially I wrongly assumed the things that would make people happy are can be bought. Whatever the cause, it was an expensive experiment for me.
I was shouting my mates meals, drinkies, public transport costs and donating all the cash I had leftover to people selling Big Issue magazines. Throughout the day I spent over $100 giving the people around me nice treats. For a stingy and money hungry individual like me, this was quite a big deal.
But I do think this experiment brought me some happiness. Shifting my brainspace to focus on other people’s issues replaced the brain space I used dwelling on my own bulldust. I wouldn’t say I forgot about my problems or promise anyone that doing an experiment like this will make you a happy person but for me, it helped.
Anna Hill, Content Manager
My kindness day started with me mostly wondering whether things I usually do would count for this experiment, like washing dishes for other people or telling someone when they have a little something on their face. I couldn’t decide. Then I remembered it’s not about the points system, and got to it. The first opportunity presented itself to me when a child’s toy fell out of a pram as a family walked past while I waited for the tram. Paddington Bear’s boot was returned. This was exciting for both me and the small child.
On my tram ride, a woman was wearing a very good casual look with a bright red lip. Statement lipstick is basically the way to my sartorial heart, so I complimented her as we got off at the same stop. She laughed at me in a confused way, so I gave her a double thumbs up to convey the seriousness of the situation. In hindsight, my double thumbs up was probably not an act of kindness. I don’t think this counted in the end.
I later paid for the next person’s coffee while ordering mine. I also bought cards and postcards to send to friends who live far away. And I sent a very encouraging text along the lines of this to a friend who hates her job. Finally, in the evening I phoned both of my grandmothers. These things were all enjoyable for me too.
At the end of my kindness day I felt largely tired. Thinking of acts of kindness and doing them, particularly if they make me feel a little awkward (LET US NOT FORGET THE DOUBLE THUMBS UP), can be quite exhausting I found. It’s the thinking and the doing and then going about my day that is tiring. (I think I’ve just described day to day living, but you get the idea. Or maybe I have low iron?) Anyway, I also found it was hard to do acts of kindness that didn’t involve buying things for people. This realisation didn’t sit very well for me. But for the most part it felt not so far outside of my daily life and activities, and the recipients of the kindness seemed largely into it.