“Depression Peach Cobbler” is what she called it. She made and delivered it to a dozen neighbors all up and down the street after four months of pandemic sheltering. It was one of my 14-year-old granddaughter’s acts of random kindness during the summer of 2020. It actually was a depression era recipe my granddaughter and her mother discovered. We all enjoyed the double message, a depression era recipe used to help relieve depression in neighborhood families.
We were all proud and happy for her random act of kindness, supporting her in every way we could. I peeled a lot of peaches after picking them from the tree in our yard. We were happy the enormous crop of peaches didn’t go to waste, too.
Random Acts of Kindness Day is recognized in the U.S. on February 17th. I urge you to think up and then do at least one “random act” on any day in February (and beyond)!
Amazing and fun would be to compile a report on all the random acts of kindness done during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, including the benefits that accrued to those involved. (Send yours to me!) Before that, let’s talk about three benefits my granddaughter experienced that accrue to us all when we perform random acts of kindness.
When we think of such an act, we most often think of what we can do for others. My granddaughter was focused on using the peaches we grew to bring joy and good taste to the neighbors. Like her, we’re interested in performing what is often called “Selfless Service.” That’s service that is performed without a thought for what the “Random Actor” will receive, only focusing on what can be given.
Over my many years as a psychotherapist, I often prescribed selfless service as a way for a person to overcome depression. Followed, the prescription had a high rate of success. Random acts also bring important benefits to the “actor.”
- Our energy gets moving
Why does this work to lift depression? Because it gets us unstuck. In fact, it gets the energy of the emotions in us unstuck from being held onto. Since emotions are energy, and energy’s nature is to move, whatever allows our energy to move automatically causes us to feel better.
Depression is a form of anger. It results from holding anger inside that we’re afraid to share or release. We all know we focus a lot of attention on what we’re angry about and who’s involved whenever we feel angry. On the simplest level, when we start thinking about what we can give to or do for others, we take our focus off of anger, instead, focusing it on what we’d like to give others.
If you have performed random acts of kindness, you know the intended receiver usually does benefit. Yet the person who benefits the very most is the person who performed those random acts.
Somehow, what is supposed to be “selfless” circles round and benefits the originator! This has to do with the fact that those random acts take our focus off of what we’ve been looking at (anger), place it on something more loving (giving), and allows the energy of the emotion in us to get moving.
2. We get to take Responsibility
A lot of people think of responsibility as a burden. For them, taking responsibility for their behavior requires them to push themselves to do things they don’t really want to do (like get up from the couch or do something someone else wants them to do). Such people equate “responsibility” with “have-to”.
That may be how we’ve come to look at responsibility, but it’s not its most powerful or beneficial aspect. Responsibility is what life is about!
Each person on this earth is responsible for his or her own life. Responsibility is part of every aspect of life. Years ago, when my child complained that school was “too much work,” I pointed out that life is about work. Even if my child decided to drop out and do nothing, that child would still have to do some work to secure a safe place to sleep, work to find something to eat, and perhaps work to stay out of the way of bad guys. What I was really telling my child is “there is no way to escape the responsibility each one of us has for the conduct of our life.”
Responsibility is glorious! Because: Responsibility is about choice. When we take full responsibility, then we are in charge of what we’re doing in our life, and we are the one who gets to decide what to make a part of that life! When we take responsibility, we put ourselves in charge of choosing.
It’s easy to see how random acts of kindness fit here. We decide to do something for others that they don’t expect. We take the action. We walk away without expecting any kind of reward. All the choices are ours!
(Find a fuller explanation about responsibility in my book, Emotions in Motion: Mastering Life’s Built-in Navigation System, www.emotionalmasteryforlife.com.)
3. Our Self-Esteem Rises
Here’s a well-kept secret: taking responsibility is one of the four main pillars of self-esteem. When we do a random act of kindness, taking responsibility for our choices and actions, our own self-esteem goes up! Living life on the basis of these four main pillars of self-esteem (honesty, responsibility, spontaneity and integrity) support us in both raising our self-esteem and maintaining it at a high level with minimal effort.
Random acts of kindness don’t have to be big, giving someone the right of way, saying “thank you,” sharing, listening fully.
Giving is a skill of love. When we perform random acts of kindness, we’re living from our heart, caring enough about people in our world to offer them small, thoughtful doses of love. Love transforms them and us, too!
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Ilene Dillon, MSW, has dedicated her life to helping people resolve personal challenges once and for all, then design life to be what they want it to be. A Transformation Specialist, she has worked 50 years as a psychotherapist and 15 years as a coach. She is a global speaker, Amazon International Best-selling author (The Wellness Universe Guide to Complete Self-Care, Volumes 1 and 2), podcast guest, and plans to give her first TEDx speech (on Anger) later this year. Ilene is also the author of Emotions in Motion: Mastering Life’s Built-in Navigation System and End Manipulation: Stop Being Jerked Around by Toxic, Energy-draining People. With her little dog, Pi, Ilene lives and travels full-time throughout North America in her RV, writing, teaching, and speaking along the way.