Do Something Nice (Without Expecting Anything in Return)

The Better Me Project—Day 8

So far, this has been the easiest of all my precepts. I love doing things for other people. I know that sounds really bizarre, but hear me out. According to an article in Live Science, May 4, 2007, “Doing Good Makes You Feel Good”. I completely agree. Doing something nice for someone else actually makes me happier. Being the reason that someone smiles is one of the best feelings in the world.

And the best part about this idea of “doing something nice” is that it doesn’t need to be this grand gesture—it need not take up tons of time or cost a lot of money. You don’t need to build schools for the blind or pay off your neighbor’s car. Doing something nice can be as simple as letting a person with groceries overflowing in their arms go in front of you in line. Paying for the car behind you when you go through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru. Folding your spouse’s clothes and putting them away for them.

Time magazine published an article August 4, 2017, “The Secret to Happiness is Helping Others”. Positive actions attract other positive actions—this is why the “Pay it Forward” movement works. But it’s important to note that we shouldn’t be looking for reciprocation—we can’t expect anything in return. A kind act is not buying someone a drink at the bar and expecting they’ll come home with you. A kind act isn’t giving your co-worker your last cookie so they’ll give you the apple turnover that they have. A kind act is paying for someone’s drink because they just discovered they left their wallet at home. A kind act is giving away your last cookie that you really want because your co-worker is sad and could really use a cookie. Putting good karma out there is bound to return to us, just like bad karma. What goes around comes around. But the secret to being happy when you perform these acts of kindness is not waiting for something to come back to you.

Like I said, this has been the easiest of my Better Me precepts because there are so many opportunities in every single day to do something kind for someone else, you just have to look around. I’ve let people in front of me on line, I’ve sat and watched a show with my husband that I really didn’t want to see, I’ve let cars in front of me when merging on the highway. A lot of times doing something nice doesn’t even affect you negatively at all. How hard is it to listen when the woman behind you on line (I spend a lot of time on lines) wants to tell you all about her grandkids? You’re not losing anything (time or money) and you’ve made her day. Isn’t that the kindest thing of all? Putting someone else before yourself for no reason other than to make them happy?

It might be difficult at first. I think it’s our self-preservation that makes us consider ourselves before any one else. But if you’re not in a “survival” situation, there’s no reason not to consider the people around you, strangers or not. Try it. When a situation arises that you have a choice between making someone else happy or status quo, try to choose the first option (as long as it’s not harming you). When your kid bats her eyelashes at you and asks if she can have your last tater tot, why not? When the old lady in the supermarket looks like she’s struggling to reach something on a shelf, get it down for her without her asking. Hold the door open for someone, even if that means they’ll get seated at a restaurant before you do. After awhile, it becomes second nature to think about how your actions can make someone smile.

As one of my co-workers likes to say…”I’m just trying to be a person”. (He says this whenever uttering concern for anyone’s wellbeing.) I think it would do us all a lot of good if we just try to “be a person” every day and think about how our simple acts can make someone else happy. It really does make us happier in the long run.

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One thought on “Do Something Nice (Without Expecting Anything in Return)

  1. julie says:

    I couldn’t agree more! It’s the best feeling in the world. Years ago, there was this grumpy toll collector on the route I took every day to work. Or so I thought. It was a crummy way to start the day, seeing his frowny face. One day (mostly out of spite, I’m afraid), I gave him a big smile. First he looked shocked (really!), then his whole face just _lit up_ with this huge smile! Apparently not grumpy, just sad. We smiled at each other every day after that. I know it made my day to have that effect on someone.

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