Random Acts of Kindness: Better Wellness for All Involved

You wouldn’t normally write a love letter to a complete stranger, but when an anxious and depressed Hannah Brencher graduated from college and moved to New York City, that’s exactly what she did. She explained, ‘What I noticed was that my sadness and loneliness got backburnered. I found something that allowed me to take the focus off of myself.’

Hannah has left letters for strangers on trains, in libraries and cafes, and even hidden them around the United Nations building. The letter says, “You and I don’t know one another… I wish you would know on a daily basis: that you are lovely. That you are worthy. That those hands of yours were made for mighty, mighty things…You are probably sitting here with this letter in your hands thinking, you cannot know that… you don’t know me… But I know all the things I thought I never deserved.’

It continues, ‘I know how very hard it once was to love myself and value myself and even find myself worth the reflection in the mirror. And so I know I am not alone in needing a boost some days, in needing to know that I matter to someone somewhere. You matter to me. In a way I cannot explain, you matter to me. And you, you are a marvel… you and all the parts of you. Love, A girl just trying to find her way.’

Hannah’s More Love Letters campaign is part of a growing number of organisations shouting about the beneficial emotional wellness effects that random acts of kindness have for givers as well as receivers. It may sound a bit new-age, but this is backed up by scientific research. According to a new study published in the journal Emotion, if your wellbeing is affected by social anxiety, performing acts of kindness may help.

Dr Lynn Alden, the study’s leader, comments, ‘I think it has be done in such a way that the individual has a sense of autonomy. They are performing the act because they want to and not because it’s required by the group.’ However, David Goodfellow, one of the founding members of the Kindness Offensive, a group which has organised give-away events and encouraged kind acts since 2008, says, ‘It’s practically impossible to do an act of kindness without feeling good about yourself. If you can make someone’s day a little bit better it will actually make your day a little bit better.’

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