20 Tiny Acts of Kindness to Make a Positive Impact

picking up trash

Sometimes carrying out small acts of kindness can be a simple way to make a huge difference. When you commit to practicing mindful acts of kindness every day, they become a part of who are and how you engage in the world around you. 

Here are 20 kind and easy things you can do to cultivate compassion and improve your life and the lives of those around you. 

1. Give the Benefit of the Doubt

If someone is late to a meeting, cuts you off in traffic, or doesn’t return your smile, you might act out of disappointment, anger, or resentment. What if you assume the best about the person instead?

2. Be Generous with Your Smiles

Your brain’s mirror neurons allow you to feel what another person feels. Sometimes that empathy comes in the form of pain, but you can also feel empathetic joy. Your smile might unconsciously brighten someone else’s day.

3. Buddy Up

As an act of compassion at a conference she attended, one of my students sought out people who were alone and made a point to say hello. This is a beautiful kindness practice for any of us who are attending an event or conference. 

4. Give a Nod to Your Friends and Colleagues

Do you have friends and coworkers who deserve some praise? What about offering a small shout-out at your next staff meeting or on social media? 

5. Stop Single-Use Cups

Show some compassion for the planet by paying attention to how many coffee cups and water bottles you throw away or recycle. Why create waste when you can carry your own water bottle and travel coffee mug? 

6. Nix Straws

Single-use plastic items fill our landfills and find their way to our oceans. Simply asking for your drink without a straw is one small way to tend to our Earth.

7. Be Patient

What happens when you choose patience over irritation? Whether in line at the grocery story or sitting in traffic, your patience will make you feel better and will very likely impact those around you. 

8. Offer Up Your Place in Line

Speaking of waiting in line—if you’re not in a hurry, tune into the person behind you. If he or she appears to be in a rush, invite him or her to skip ahead of you. This small act may make his or her day.

9. Make the Coffee

Do you have a coffee pot at the office? What happens when the pot is empty? At my co-working space, I sometimes find that someone has left a small amount in the pot so that he or she doesn’t have to make the next one. Don’t be that person!

10. Eat Less Meat

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock production is one of the largest contributors to climate change. If you cut out meat one day a week or perhaps at lunchtime, you can help the planet and contribute to the animal rights.

11. Pay It Forward

Next time you get a coffee, try adding a few extra dollars to purchase the next person’s drink. This small act of kindness may ripple through many others that day.

12. Take 3 Deep Breaths

This brief act of self-compassion can calm you down by bringing your mind back to the present moment

13. Soothe Yourself

Self-soothing techniques like holding your own hand, giving yourself a hug, or placing your hand on your heart may lower your stress levels. Research indicates that self-compassion promotes the release of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone.

14. Ask a Simple Question    

Ask your kids, friends, or partner, “What do you appreciate about yourself?” and see what emerges. 

15. Help a Parent

If you’ve ever traveled solo with an infant, you know how hard it is to get through security. Not only are you taking your shoes off and making sure your laptop is out of your bag, but you’re carrying a child, folding up a stroller, and trying to not lose your mind in the process. A stranger’s helping hand can turn a stressful situation into a moment of connection and joy.

16. Say Thank You

Take a little bit of time to thank someone you don’t normally thank. 

Every once in a while, I get emails from people who appreciate the work I do for my nonprofit Compassion It. Even if the messages are only a sentence in length, those encouraging notes boost my mood and energy level. A little bit of gratitude truly goes a long way.

17. Leave No Trace

Sometimes I work at busy coffee shops and have to ask for a cloth to clean up my table before I sit down. Perhaps it’s the responsibility of the shop to clean up crumbs and spills, but I’d rather leave my table clean when I leave so that the next customer can sit down to a welcoming space.

18. Pick Up Dog Poop

This act of kindness is not for everyone, but have you ever walked by dog feces lying on the sidewalk? If you have an extra poop bag, why not pick it up? This is one of my habits when I walk my dog, and it’s my least favorite act of kindness. However, when I consider how many people would be walking by it, or potentially stepping in it, the disgust I feel is worth it.

19. Pick Up Trash

Similar to picking up dog poop you spot, what if you picked up trash as you walked along? Your small act might inspire others to do the same, and it literally cleans up the neighborhood. 

20. Be Thrifty

Why purchase new items when there are plenty of pre-owned ones that already exist? You don’t have to look hard to find used clothes and household items that are nearly as good as new. Show Mother Earth some kindness and check out thrift stores and Craigslist before you make your next purchase. 

These small acts of kindness may go unnoticed, but remember that you will tremendously impact at least one life—your own. 


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About the Author
Sara Schairer is the founder and executive director of COMPASSION IT , a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions and attitudes. She created the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT wristband prompting compassionate actions on six continents, 48 countries, and all 50 states. Wristband sales fund compassion education programs for youth, teens, and adults. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives. A Stanford-certified instructor of Compassion Cultivation...Read more