The festive season is a time for giving. We’re reminded of the importance of spreading love and kindness. As we near Christmas, our focus often shifts to our loved ones, communities, and those in need.

While we may think of kindness and generosity in the form of presents and donations, there is so much more we can do. Rather than focusing on big gestures that we only do occasionally, we can perform random acts of kindness every day.

Not only can random acts of kindness benefit the receiver, but they also offer lots of benefits to the giver.

In 2010, Harvard Business School conducted a happiness survey of 136 countries. They found people who were generous with their money reported the highest levels of happiness.

Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, Christine Carter, reported half of the participants in a research study reported feeling stronger and more energetic after helping others in her book Raising Happiness.

A study by the Emory University (2002) found that the brain’s pleasure and reward centres lit up in participants who chose to help their opponents in a simple strategy game.

Reduced social anxiety
In a 2015 study, 115 undergraduate students experiencing high levels of social anxiety, were assigned to three groups – the first group performed kind acts, the second engaged in social interactions and the last were not assigned an activity. After the four weeks, those who performed acts of kindness reported a lower desire to avoid social interactions, more positive moods, and a higher satisfaction in their relationships.

Pay it forward effect
According to Jamil Zaki, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, kindness spreads. In a 2016 article for the Scientific American, he reported how people exposed to kind actions were more likely to do something kind, even without seeing it, in their recent studies.