4 Simple Acts of Kindness That Instantly Boost Your Happiness

If you want to feel happier, make someone smile


Omar Itani

3 years ago | 6 min read

A homeless woman sat on the side of a bridge.

I walked past her every single morning, and despite her ripped clothes and dire circumstances, and regardless of whether or not I deposited some coins into her worn-out paper cup, she would always look up and greet me with the most genuine and beautiful smile a stranger with nothing could ever offer.

One morning, I looked across and saw her in the exact spot she had claimed, only this time, something about her demeanor spoke straight to me.

She wasn’t sitting up straight, she was hunched over with her head held down and her eyes lost in a gaze onto the ground. She didn’t look up at by-passers and she appeared defeated.

So I walked up to her and squatted by her side. I told her my name and asked for hers; it was Mona. I handed her a warm cup of coffee and a croissant that I had picked up for her at the nearest café.

The spark in her eyes moved me.

But most importantly, she smiled.

And as I walked away that morning, I felt a stormy sea of humbling yet joyful emotions arise within me.

This was the story I recalled as I read the following words written in Nataly Kogan’s book, Happier Now:

“If you want to feel happier, right this very minute, make a friend smile.” — Deepak Chopra

Give to Receive

When we act with kindness, whether it be by giving a compliment or physically helping someone else, we do it with the intention of making the recipient feel good. As it turns out, the very act of selfless giving is rooted in us feeling good as well.

And the reason, as Kogan explains, is this: “When we do something kind, our brain releases oxytocin, a hormone that makes us feel really good. We’re hardwired to be kind, and that kindness keeps us healthier.”

In comes to no surprise then, that what Plato wrote centuries ago still holds true:

“Caring about the happiness of others, we find our own.”

In a life-satisfaction study published by the Journal of Social Psychology, researchers found that people who perform a daily act of kindness within a 10-day window experience a boost in their mood and happiness. The finding suggests that good deeds do make us feel good. But it doesn’t stop there.

Oxytocin, or the ‘love hormone,’ also increases our self-esteem and optimism. As Psychology Today explains: “When this neurochemical begins to flow, bonding increases, social fears are reduced and trust and empathy are enhanced,” which helps us cultivate more trusting relationships with others.

The good news is that both, the giver and the receiver, benefit from kindness. And it all comes back to this: We experience the feelings that we share with others. When someone angers us, we experience a feeling of anger. When something excites us, we experience a feeling of excitement.

Likewise, when we do something kind, we experience a feeling of kindness. And as per the other emotions we experience, we’re both, on the giving and receiving end of it.

“Giving opens the way for receiving.” — Florence Scovel Shinn

Giving is a powerful conduit for creating more joy in this world. It even cultivates a more mindful way of living. And the practice of kindness is the easiest way to give. Give more kindness and love, and you shall receive more of it as it’s the act of giving that opens the way for receiving.

Here are four simple acts of kindness that would make someone smile, and thus, make you both feel a little happier today.

1. Check-in to see how someone is doing.

Psychologist Marc Brackett, who was interviewed by Brené Brown on her podcast a few weeks ago, had this to say:

“It’s one of the greatest paradoxes of the human condition — we ask some variation of the question ‘How are you feeling?’ over and over, which would lead one to assume that we attach some importance to it. And yet we never expect or desire — or provide — an honest answer.”

When was the last time you genuinely cared to know how someone you care for truly felt? Make it a habit to check-in with your loved ones and generously ask the question of ‘how are you feeling today?’.

Listen more than you talk. And when you’re ready to talk, say something positive that would make them smile. As per Harvard’s 75-year study on happiness, “good relationships keep us happier and healthier,” and it’s genuine care that weaves friendships and fosters connection.

2. Tell someone how much you admire them (or their work).

Recently, I had a video call with coach Liz Huber.

As we were chatting I said to her: “Liz, I really admire your work ethic and all that you’ve put into building your business. Seriously. Your articles have been a great help for me and I’m sure many others are also benefitting from them.”

She beamed with gratitude. And it felt so good to see someone else instantly light up because of the words that I had said.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”— Maya Angelou

If you admire someone’s work or qualities, let them know. Chances are that person has invested countless time and energy into honing the skills that have translated into the work you so admire. Let them know that their work matters. Make them smile.

3. Give someone an unexpected present.

A few weeks ago I received a package in the mail. I thought it was my Amazon order coming in, but it wasn’t. It was an unexpected gift from a friend.

In an earlier call, I had told her how I was struggling to figure out what to do next given the situation we’re living in today. So she sent me a gift (a book and pack of incense sticks) with a note that read: “I hope its smell instills in you calmness and openness and cleans any bad energy from your day.”

I felt as happy as a kid splashing water in a pool on a hot summer day. And so was my friend when she heard the happiness in my voice after I immediately called her to say thank you.

Give someone an unexpected gift. I can guarantee you it will instantly brighten up both your days and spark a smile so naturally beautiful no painter would attempt to replicate it — a smile as beautiful as Mona’s.

4. Let someone know that you’re thinking of them.

Just a few days ago I sent one of my closest overseas friends a message that read: “I miss so much you. I just want to give you one big hug right now.” She replied with such genuine joy, it made me feel so warm inside.

If you’re thinking of someone, let them know. It’ll make them smile, and their response will make you more cheerful. It’ll bring warmth into both your lives.

What Matters to You

Giving works wonders for everyone involved — it’s the gateway to better relationships. And if you fill your days with small acts of kindness and giving, you’ll bring more happiness to yourself and others.

So I challenge you to ask yourself these questions:

  • How can I help someone today?
  • Who needs my moral support?
  • What’s a random act of kindness that would bring joy to a total stranger?
  • How can I make someone smile?

As per the words of Nelson Mandela:

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

So if you want to feel happier, make someone smile.


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Omar Itani

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