This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2017 winners of the award attgam.ca/workplaceaward.
Registration for the 2018 Employee Recommended Workplace Awards have closed. Companies can pre-register for 2019 at www.employeerecommended.com.
How regularly do you perform random acts of kindness?
If you're not sure, take a moment to explore how the micro skill of performing random acts of kindness for others can be a major benefit to your health and happiness, which will improve your life at home and at work.
Essentially, random acts of kindness are acts by individuals who actively seek out opportunities to help others they may or may not know. Actions fall on a continuum, from those that can take seconds to some involving hours. Some examples are: holding a door open, helping a person across a street, asking someone who looks lost if they need directions, complimenting someone, sending a sick person a get-well card, volunteering, donating retail points to charities, and the list goes on.
There's science that suggests performing random acts of kindness can increase serotonin, the feel-good chemical in our brains; increase energy levels and happiness; and decrease stress and anxiety. Researchers have reported that acts of kindness delay mortality, reduce risk for depression, and can increase good fortune and well-being.
The barrier to providing random acts of kindness is low. Acting begins with simply becoming aware of what you're doing. Many of us offer acts of kindness sporadically, when the situation arises. If a senior citizen falls at a crosswalk, many will stop and do all we can to help. What some may not notice is how good we feel after we help others.
Activating this micro skill and gaining all its benefits begins with consciously connecting the dots of how helping others benefits us, as well as how good we feel after we perform kind acts. Increasing our awareness by paying attention to our own experiences can increase our motivation to engage in more acts of kindness.
Struggling to do our best with what we have, and feeling overwhelmed by the day-to-day demands of life can put us at risk of thinking that we have no time to do more. But when we pause and shift our frame of reference to understand that random acts don't need to take a lot of time, we can slow down, do something for someone else, and reap the benefits with them.
When you're distracted by the challenges of life, the notion that slowing down to help others is good for you may not sound appealing, until you test it a few times and experience firsthand the true benefits. While some people may not appreciate or even seem grateful to receive a random act of kindness, the intention is to help without any expectation of reward – or even acknowledgement. To adopt this micro skill, it's beneficial to accept that you can only control your own acts. More people will be grateful than not, but the end goal is to consciously perform acts of kindness unconditionally.
This is not a complicated micro skill to add to your behaviour. It requires only three actions to convert it to a daily habit:
Be open to opportunities – Decide that you want to perform random acts of kindness and then allow your creativity system to generate ideas. As well, review ideas created by others who post theirs, such as on 100 random acts of kindness.
Activate – Look for at least one opportunity each day to perform a random act of kindness, to help others and yourself. It's important to keep this simple. It doesn't need to be overwhelming nor a big drain on your time, finances or effort; it only needs to be something that feels natural, right, and what you want to do.
Acknowledge – Notice after you perform a random act of kindness how you feel inside. Allow yourself to soak up the positive feelings. This can help to anchor these kinds of acts and to reinforce their benefits. When done in the spirit of what all random acts of kindness are intended to be, you never do harm to others or yourself. Society benefits when its members act together to make a better place for all.
Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.
This article supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award. This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.
You can find all the stories in this series at:tgam.ca/workplaceaward