Okay, so we tricked you – kind of. These 7 ideas definitely boost serotonin (AKA the happiness hormone) and they’re cheap and easy, but you might know them by another name: random acts of kindness. And for introverts and other non-confrontational folks like myself, that phrase tends to conjure up the obligation to go out of your way and talk to a lot of strangers. That’s the stereotype, right? To truly do good and make a difference (even in a small way), you have to make some level of sacrifice. While getting a little uncomfortable on occasion can help you feel more fulfilled, the reality is that you don’t have to take leaps and bounds outside of your comfort zone to do some daily good and feel the benefits. According to Psychology Today, “even just thinking and talking about kindness can improve happiness and peace,” while “receiving, giving, or even witnessing acts of kindness increases immunity and the production of serotonin [a neurotransmitter that regulates mood in the brain]. Instant karma. With that in mind, here are a few quick, introvert-friendly acts of kindness to keep your energy up all week:
“Pay it forward” for free
It’s always a sweet surprise when the person in front of you at the Starbucks drive-thru pays for your coffee. If we’re being practical, though, we don’t always have the spare cash to cover our fellow commuters’ 4-shot, skim Venti Cloud Foam macchiato (shoutout to student loans). What we likely do have, though, is a coffee maker at home. And fixing up your roommate a cup of coffee while they’re getting ready for work is one of those things that barely registers as effort on your own radar but feels really considerate on the receiving end. Happy roommates, happy life, right?
Stick it to ‘em
Grateful for all the support your coworkers offer, but you’re not the mushy type? Leave a little sticky note of gratitude on their desk, no confrontation required. The more personalized, the greater the impact, so instead of “You’re doing a great job!”, try, “Hey Jan, that presentation blew it out of the water. You’re driving change, and that definitely doesn’t go unnoticed! Keep crushing it!” Jan will be stoked, and you barely had to write two extra sentences. Great team morale = great productivity = happy, high-achieving people. Or just, you know, some happy, grateful coworkers, which we’ll definitely take!
Pass along something sweet
This one is so simple, but if you’ve ever been on the receiving end, it feels like you’ve won the lottery: leave the exact change for a snack/drink in the coin return of a vending machine. We all remember scrounging for soda change in the bottom of book bags to get through the last few hours of studying for a final and always coming up short. Be a hero for a down-and-out undergrad in desperate need of caffeine – I can confirm they’ll send all the cosmic gratitude your way.
Get free money to support causes you care about whenever you spend
This is the no-brainer that a whole lot of people are still finding out about: when you download the Inspired app and link your debit or credit card, every single time you spend, you will spark a donation (always paid for by the company, so no toll on your wallet) to fund an excellent cause. It’s like getting paid just to live your life, but your payment gets delivered straight to a good cause that you can see and experience! The latest projects the Inspired Community is funding include coats for Chicago’s homeless (in collaboration with Social Works, Chance the Rapper’s foundation) and summer camp scholarships for kids (with Zac Brown Band’s Camp Southern Ground). So whenever you’re grabbing brunch, cocktails, or toothpaste, you’re helping fund amazing programs. Zero cost to you. It takes just a second to link your card, and the number of donations you can spark are endless. A truly prime act of kindness with very little effort.
Capture a memory
This works especially well when you’re traveling or in a touristy location: offering to take photos of a couple or a group is usually hugely appreciated. It’s always a little awkward to ask around for someone to get a shot of you and your SO in front of the Hollywood Sign, for instance, so ease that tension by looking around for groups and asking preemptively! It’s a super quick interaction that people are usually overly grateful for, so it’s a safe bet even for us introverts. What’s more, you might have snapped that shot they frame for decades to come and show their future grandkids. You did the entire extended family a solid.
Send a thoughtful text
We all have those people we love but often forget to check in with. Maybe an old roommate, a parent, a grandparent, etc. If you’re not up for the extended phone call those interactions tend to precipitate, shoot a “Hey, was just thinking about you! Hope all is well :)” text. Same fuzzy feeling, without the obligatory three-hour call that takes up your whole afternoon. Of course, I may not be able to save you over the holidays, but at least during the busy work week it sends a little love in a manageable time frame!
Show a little extra support
Your friend just got a new job offer, your mom just bought a beautiful new house, your cousin just adopted a pet – all you need to do is get excited! Being super enthusiastic about other people’s good news not only gives them a huge boost of confidence, but it gets you even more subconsciously invested in their exciting news. Fake it ‘til you make it, right? Odds are, if you’re super supportive and enthusiastic about your friends’ good news right off the bat, it will give you a little boost as well. If you’re invested, their good fortune is yours, too! So make an effort to give that extra bit of enthusiasm and personal support to the people around you, and it will likely come back in spades.
Regardless of extra cash, your capacity for social interaction (we get it, social burn-out happens!), or a busy schedule, these acts of kindness go a long way with little effort. We’re big believers that small actions go on to change the world, and each one of these gestures get that butterfly effect moving – all while making your day a little brighter. So what are you waiting for? Go forth and be kind.