Have you ever had your coffee paid for by a stranger in line ahead of you? Or your next door neighbor cleared the snow off your driveway before you got to it? How about a simple smile from someone when you were feeling down? I remember when I would travel by myself with my newborn to and from California to visit family and had no choice but to ask for help from total strangers. The cool thing was that I rarely had to ask for help...people were lending a hand left and right as I struggled to get my stroller and car seat folded up while holding a baby. They would jump right in, and I would just tell them what to do and then thank them to no end because it meant so much. Even in a world of uncertainty and tragedy, there is so much hope found in these small but powerful moments of unexpected kindness from complete strangers.
Emotional and cognitive health is vital to our physical health. In stressful or anxiety-inducing situations, our bodies take somewhat of a beating. On the contrary, think of the positive physical manifestations when we experience joy, peace and kindness. More than likely, our bodies are relaxed and, consequently, become more resilient. In his book The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, Dr. Amit Sood states that "Stress also weakens attention, worsens most medical conditions and hastens your escape from the present moment." It is in this present moment that we have unlimited opportunity to lend a kind hand, word or even a look. Many of us hesitate to do these things because we feel like we have to do something big, such as volunteer every weekend at the soup kitchen or give a large sum of money to a charity. Although these are great things to do, let's not let this hinder us from doing the things that are so-called mundane but meaningful, such as asking that newcomer in town to come over for dinner, talking to the elderly lady sitting at the bus stop, smiling and saying thank you to the shuttle driver or simply writing a note of encouragement to a friend. We live busy lives, but are we too busy preparing and worrying about things that haven't even happened yet? All it takes is intentionality to be present in the moment, to pause and recognize other people around you and ask yourself, "what can I do to make this moment even greater?" If we are focusing on the people around us, we won't have as much time to focus on our own worries and, as a result, our bodies will thank us for the mood booster.
If we could challenge ourselves to do one of these acts once a week, how much better would our community and society be? Imagine the possibilities and how it not only positively affects the receiver but probably the giver even more. Let's commit to our overall health by making someone else's day that much brighter! It can start a ripple effect that will add joy to all our lives.