You know where you’re getting your fair trade chocolate hearts already, right? So rather than publish yet another Valentine’s Day Gift Guide, promote the Mommy Greenest Guide to Natural Sex with a Valentine’s Day twist, or urge you (yet again) to Boycott Hershey’s for Valentine’s Day (please do), I decided instead to explore a new-to-me Valentine’s Day (well, week) phenom: random acts of kindness. Join me?
I believe that random acts of kindness are contagious. This Valentine’s Day, what did you catch? For the past 16 years, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has organized a week-long celebration to encourage people to smile, hug, thank and think more about how to be kind to others. From February 14th through 20th, you can participate by signing their Kindness Pledge and spreading the word on social media through the #Pledge2BeKind hashtag.
These are not just selfless acts! According to UC Berkeley, one of the best ways to increase your own happiness is to focus on the happiness of others. Engaging in acts of kindness actually lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. Kind people have 23% less cortisol (better known as the stress hormone) and age slower than others. Finally, people who witness and benefit from acts of kindness are more likely to be kind themselves.
What’s a random act of kindness? Last month, GOOD magazine reported on Iranian “Kindness Walls,” in which people donate clothes for people in need. Madison Steiner, the organization’s 2012 Kindness Challenge winner (pictured above), decorates and gifts shoes to children with cancer and other long-term illnesses and disabilities through her Peach’s Neet Feet foundation. After experiencing depression, 2013 winner Hannah Brencher founded More Love Letters, which is now a network of volunteers who’ve handwritten encouraging letters to 11,000 people in 49 countries and all 50 states. Here’s her story, which I just love:
What’s mine? As a working parent, I get caught up in moving my family from point A to point B. I stress about meeting deadlines and whether or not I’ve remembered to buy milk and if I’ll have time to get from a meeting to my son’s soccer game. But yesterday, when my daughter asked if we could visit a friend who was home sick on her birthday, I put the obligations on hold. Together, we picked out a card, some flowers and her favorite flavor of ice cream, and drove over to the girl’s house to surprise her. My daughter was literally jumping for joy. Her friend, who had been moping around in bed all day, lit up with happiness. Dancing back to the car, my daughter yelled, “I feel so great!” And I did, too.
I believe that random acts of kindness are contagious. This Valentine’s Day, what did you catch? Please tell me about it in comments below, and if you share your story on social media, tag me @RachelLSarnoff on Twitter and Instagram, with the hashtag #Pledge2BeKind. Let’s flood social media with kindness next week!
Photo of Madison Steiner, founder of Peach’s Neet Feet, is from Random Acts of Kindness.