Kindness is contagious! Use this helpful list to spread cheer to those in need

By Diane J. Cho
November 06, 2019 04:36 PM

In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to be kind to yourself and to others. One thoughtful deed or interaction can make a major impact on someone who may need a helping hand.

This holiday season — and in honor of PEOPLE’s inaugural Kindness Issue — get inspired to lead with compassion by trying one simple act of kindness a day. Your good deed — no matter how big or small — can help encourage others to also pay your kindness forward. Whether it’s gifting a friend a sweet, unexpected treat or sending a smile to brighten someone’s day, use this list to get started.

“When a friend is going through a tough time, the rest of that friend group can brainstorm something that might help pick him or her up: a massage gift certificate, a cozy pair of PJs, a night’s stay in a hotel. The group can designate one person to purchase and send. The rest of the group can Venmo the point person for their share. It’s a super-easy way to send love (and pool funds for one more impactful gift), especially if your friends live in different places.”
— Alex Apatoff, Lifestyle Director

“While heading to my aunt’s for Thanksgiving one year, my family pulled up to a tollbooth with a dollar ready, only to learn that the car ahead of us paid for us, too. The simple gesture made our day, so now we do the same for the cars behind us every time we travel for a holiday. If you have EZ Pass, consider paying for the person behind you in the Starbucks drive-thru!”
— Stephanie Petit, Royals Writer

“My friends are spread out across the country — Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C. — but I realized that food delivery services don’t care where you place your order from, as long as it’s ordered from a place that’s nearby its future destination. With that in mind, I started to send my friends their favorite foods through services, like Postmates and Grubhub, after a tough day. I’ve done it after breakups, dog deaths and layoffs, and it always cheers them up!”
— Julie Mazziotta, Writer/Reporter

“It might seem simple, but just listening can go a really long way. A lot of times, many of us (myself included!) want to ‘fix’ a friend or family member’s problem, when in reality, they just need us to ‘sit in the s—.’ Saying, ‘I’m sorry you’re going through this — what can I do to help?’ can be invaluable. Validating a loved one’s feelings and helping them get past what they’re going through aren’t mutually exclusive!”
— Jen Juneau, Parents Writer

“Smiling and having small talk with a stranger can really be enough to brighten someone’s day. This is especially true for senior citizens and anyone with special needs, who may otherwise feel isolated. You never know what someone else is going through at any given moment. We could all use a little kindness, and it never hurts to be extra kind to others.”
— Darlene Aderoju, Editorial Assistant

“One of my favorite things to do for my friends who are going through a tough time is to send them a random $5 to $10 on Venmo — on the private setting, of course — and write them a little note letting them know I’m there if they need anything, and to go enjoy a coffee on me. You won’t miss those couple of bucks because that little surprise will really go a long way. Plus, I’ve found that it ends up coming back around in the end.”
— Andrea Wurzburger, Features Writer

“If I’m in a car and pulling up to a tollbooth, I will pay for myself and for the car behind me. If I’m standing in line at a Starbucks, I will pay for myself and for the person standing right behind me. If I’m riding in a taxi cab, I will pay the driver an extra $10 and ask him or her to put that money towards the next person’s fare. If a package arrives in my apartment building and is left in the public lobby, I will take the package and leave it in front of the person’s door. If I’m walking down the street, riding in an elevator, bus or train, I will make sure to smile. It’s the little things in life that count and have the most meaning.”
— Julie Farin, Brand Communications Director

“A few years ago, I started thinking about just how affected I was when I received compliments from a random stranger. These are such tiny things — ‘I like your shoes’ on the subway or ‘That jacket is awesome’ from the woman walking in the opposite direction down the street — but they have a ripple effect. I didn’t need the validation — I knew that jacket was bomb when I bought it — but it put a bonus, unexpected swing in my step. And it was because of this that I decided: When you think something positive about someone else, say it. Don’t keep it to yourself. Unexpected compliments can make someone’s entire day. So, if someone has a great idea in a meeting, tell them you thought so. If you notice someone working extra hard on something, let them know you noticed. And of course, tell that lady on the train her shoes are killer!”

“As a rule, I never pass a kid’s lemonade stand without stopping. I grew up in a quiet suburb in Ohio where I knew all my neighbors. The rare instance where my friends and I had a customer who didn’t live on our block delighted us and made us feel like real, grown-up businesspeople. As an adult, being on the other end of those transactions delights me just as much.”
— Breanne L. Heldman, Senior Editor

“In my neighborhood of Chicago, a local mom set up a monthly meal train for new mothers in the area. On the first of every month, you can reach out to her if you’ve just had a baby and could use a little dinner break, or if you have some free time to cook for someone else. She then pairs people up and assigns drop-off dates from there. It’s a great way to make our big city feel a little smaller, and for moms of newborns to have a home-cooked meal and a few extra minutes to snuggle their babies (or shower, or sleep!).”
— Kate Hogan, Digital Specials Director

“Kindness comes naturally when we move past fear. If we feel anxious or defensive, it’s hard to reach out and help someone else. Interrupting self-doubt and ‘us versus them’ thinking with a brief meditation, a run, or a walk in the woods helps us see beyond ourselves and find compassion for others.”
— Sheila Cosgrove Baylis, Health Editor

“I am a big believer in the healing power of music. Whenever any of my friends are going through a rough patch, I always send them a song or a short playlist they can listen to. There’s nothing in life that a little Stevie Wonder can’t fix.”
— Diane Cho, Features Editor

PEOPLE’s first-ever Kindness Issue is dedicated to highlighting the ways, big and small, that kindness can make a difference and change lives. Click here and pick up the issue, on stands Friday, Nov. 8, for more stories on the impact of kindness from Julia Roberts, Tiffany Haddish and other stars, as well as everyday people practicing kindness in their communities.