An Unexpected (and Underrated) Way
To Help Increase Happiness Quickly


One of the best ways to succeed in life is to be as happy as you can as often as you can.

And like many things in life, it’s tempting to look for special, little known secrets that will work miracles.

But as is often the case with many things, simple works best.

Today, we will look at a collection of studies (known as a meta-analysis) to help us find the answer.

Curry et al. (2016) examined 21 different studies to compare the impact of small acts of kindness against other positive psychology interventions that people use, such as mindfulness, positivity and gratitude.

Examples of acts of kindness utilized in these studies include: running an errand for a neighbour, helping someone you meet when out in public, giving someone an unexpected gift, etc.

Results showed that engaging in a small act of kindness was equivalent to 1-point on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is equal to no happiness, and 10 was equivalent to being extremely happy.

That’s huge, especially for such a simple task!

Imagine this, your current level of happiness is sort of ho-hum and hovering around a 5. Two or three simple acts of kindness for family, friends or even a stranger could help you feel pretty darn good in just a matter of a few minutes.

And if you need a little more convincing, being kind to others can produce higher levels of happiness than simply being kind to yourself (Nelson et al., 2016).

No wonder it feels so good to give someone a gift.


Take-Home Message

Engaging in acts of kindness is a wonderful tool to have in the psychological tool bag to help easily and predictably increase feelings of happiness.

Not to mention that a simple act of kindness can help someone else feel good.

Perhaps that's why it's been said that the secret to living is giving.

3 Acts Of Kindness That Will Help You Feel Better

You certainly don’t need scientific evidence to be kind to someone during your day.

But the reality is, helping others is not only a kind thing to do, but it also feels good to do it.

So, let’s take a quick look at three ways science has found that helping others can help you feel better.


Spend Money On Someone Else

Have you ever spent money on someone else and wondered if it really mattered?

I’ve certainly asked myself this question more than a few times when spending money on my daughters!

That can be a difficult question, but I know this gesture can help you feel better.

Dunn et al. (2008) found that those who spend a higher proportion of their money on others or charity are happier than people who don't.


And I know that when it comes to my daughters, they are more than happy to help make sure that a “greater proportion” of the money is spent on them!

They must be really concerned about my happiness!


Help A Neighbour or Volunteer

Giving money isn't the only way to be kind. It's just as valuable to give your time.

Helliwell et al. (2013) found that doing nice things for other people helps you feel better.

And it doesn’t need to be earth-shattering amounts of time. The study found that engaging in simple activities such as running an errand for a neighbour can positively impact happiness.


So for anyone who is tight on time and is concerned about the commitment involved with volunteering consistently, small acts of kindness go a long way in helping others.

And of course, they help you to feel good as well.


Send A Thankful Message

Sending a thankful message is a nice thought, but it doesn't seem like it should have that powerful of an effect on happiness.

Yet, it does.

Toepfer et al. (2012) found that sending three letters throughout three weeks not only increased feelings of happiness but also helped to improve life satisfaction as well.

And for those of you under the age of 25, a letter is something we used to write on paper that involved multiple paragraphs spread out over a page or two that was mailed to someone afterwards! :P

It's incredible how much life has changed since 2012 (the publication date for this study), but I suspect the results from this study from letters will translate quite well to texting.

In this case, I’d encourage you to break a few texting rules to match the effectiveness of a letter.

For starters, feel free to send whoever you are thanking some bigger blocks of text to help get across your message of thanks.

It would also suggest avoiding short forms for words, so it doesn't look like you are trying to rush through it. Instead, be sure to type out the whole word and be thoughtful about how you say thanks.

And adding a few emojis sprinkled in there should help convey the emotion you are going for in your message.

But above all, the sentiment you are expressing in the message will be most important for the reader. And it will undoubtedly help you to feel good as well.


Are you surprised at how acts of kindness can influence feelings of happiness?
What acts of kindness do you like to do for others?
Join the conversation on Facebook!

Article by

Trevor Sullivan, MA, RP

Registered Psychotherapist

August 3, 2020