How Kindness Can Improve Your Mood

kindness improves mood

We’ve all seen TV shows and movies featuring coaches with hearts of gold, but usually they have a gruff exterior. But in the popular TV series Ted Lasso we see a coach who’s gentle, compassionate and sweet through and through. His unshakeable kindness to everyone is like a warm hug every time we see him. That may be a big part of the appeal of the series.

According to a study that commissioned from Oxford University, “The more you engage in kindness, the greater your wellbeing, compassion, trust, positivity about humanity, and connection.”

Therapists often recommend that people who are depressed or even suicidal take up volunteer work as a way of showing themselves that they add value to society, that what they do makes a difference. As it turns out, we learn that Ted Lasso has some mental health issues, and it may very well be that his kindness is one of his coping mechanisms, even if he doesn’t recognize it as such.

Being the kind one really makes you feel good about the world and about your place in it. We see this theme in hundreds of Chicken Soup for the Soul stories, and one of our most popular books is about random acts of kindness and how they make us feel great.

A Good Deed a Day

Since helping others makes us feel good, why not do it every day? Here’s a little motivation, courtesy of Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor Shannon Anderson.

As Shannon describes it, one evening she was cooking and doing laundry, the kids were squabbling over whose turn it was to let out the dog, and her husband was annoyed that dinner wasn’t on the table yet. Everyone was in their own little silo, caring about their particular lives and tasks.

Shannon was upset that night. She explains: “We had become absorbed in our own activities and not very considerate toward those around us. We needed to do something to bring back some meaning into our lives. It needed to be something that would refocus our own agendas and energize us toward the common good.”

So Shannon purchased a journal, labeled it “Our Deed Diary” and held a family meeting. She told her husband and daughters that she wanted them to start doing something kind every day. That good deed could be for another family member or for someone outside their home.

The purpose was to reduce the focus on themselves and brighten someone else’s day in the process. Shannon and her husband and children would discuss their good deeds over dinner each night and record them in their deed journal.

Shannon says it was harder than you might think to come up with their good deeds each day. Remember, it had to be something they didn’t normally do. So if they normally sent someone a birthday card, that didn’t count. If the girls normally helped their mom with a certain chore, that didn’t count. These had to be new good deeds.

Making a Habit of Kindness

After a few weeks, they got the hang of it, and Shannon says it has made a difference: “Instead of always wondering what the day will bring for us, we think about what we can do for someone else. At dinner, we have an instant conversation starter, as we all share our stories.”

Shannon expanded the good deed experiment to her first-grade classroom. The kids began by writing thank-you letters to the people who worked in the school. Shannon says, “It was most touching to observe the janitor, nurse, librarian, and other school staff hang our notes on their walls while beaming because they felt appreciated.”

The class as a whole tried to do three good deeds per day, and it transformed the kids. “When a student spills his or her crayons, you wouldn’t believe how many kids scurry over to try to help and clean them up!” reports Shannon.

“Just as with my family, keeping and sharing a Deed Diary changed our whole outlook on life. Who would have thought that trying to do a simple kindness a day would be so rewarding?”

I love that story. What an easy way to change a family dynamic, invigorate a classroom, and instill lasting values in kids. And what a great way for you to brighten your own days.

You don’t even have to write down your good deeds. You merely have to decide each day to do one little thing for someone else – open a door, pick up a piece of trash, let a mother with a squirming kid go ahead of you in line at the store, or pick up an extra coffee for someone at work.

The famous basketball coach John Wooden had this to say: “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” That is indeed the best kind of good deed, one you do with no thought of personal benefit.

For me, it works. Whenever I do a random act of kindness for someone, I come away from the experience with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.

How do you feel after you’ve done a good deed for a stranger? Would you commit to one good deed a day for the next week to see how it feels? Have you tried using kindness to change a bad day into a good one?