Random Acts of Kindness and Volunteering: My Strategy for Managing Stress by Spreading Joy

Shifting Focus to Manage Stress

We live in a world of uncertainty with ever changing politics, finances, health, traffic, and even weather.  Uncertainty can lead to a feeling of loss of control, which breeds stress and anxiety, both of which are not good for your health. A good strategy when you begin to feel anxious is to shift your attention to something else.  If I start to feel this loss of control or even if I find myself starting to short or frustrate, I find that finding a positive activity I can switch my attention helps shift my attitude and restores some control.  I believe that choosing an activity that you truly enjoy and fills your heart with joy is key.  I have found one of the best ways to make this happen is to volunteer or perform an act of kindness for another. Try one of the ideas below or let the list inspire an idea of your own.

Fast and Simple Ideas for Spreading Joy

  • At the store, let the person behind you with only a few items in their cart jump in front of you in line.
  • Buy an extra tea or coffee and deliver it to a friend, coworker, or even just a stranger.
  • Store some granola bars or other non-perishable item in your car and hand one to a person seeking food.
  • Put your extra change in a donation bin you walk by.
  • Put away carts left around the parking lot at a grocery store.
  • Tell someone how much you appreciate their help, support, energy, or ideas.

Activities Requiring a Little Prep

  • Bake and deliver cookies or bread to a neighbor, coworker, homeless shelter, or even a family you know with someone ill or who has a lot going on.
  • Deliver a hot drink to your favorite hairstylist, teacher, nurses or doctors, dentist, coworker, or civil servant to show your appreciation.
  • Clean up a park, neighborhood space, school playground, or local trail or beach.
  • Go to a family shelter and read to a child or play a game with them. If possible, leave the game or book behind for them to use again. Goodwill is a great place to get very inexpensive games and books.
  • Write a letter to a friend you haven’t contacted in ages.
  • Sort through your clothes or books and donate the ones you are done with.
  • Give blood at your local blood bank. They are always in need!
  • Collect all your hotel sized bottles of shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, etc and deliver to a homeless shelter.

Regular Volunteering Opportunities

  • Read books to children at a school or be their buddy and let them practice reading to you.
  • Read aloud to seniors at a nursing home who can no longer see well enough to read themselves.
  • Volunteer at the animal shelter. They are often in need of dog walker, folks to play with or pet the animals, and individuals willing to help with chores needed to care for the animals.
  • Volunteer at a Children’s Hospital to play with young children or hold a baby, so their parents can take a break.
  • Play board or card games with residents at a nursing home.
  • Ask a local church if they need help with any office or outdoor work or know of members who could use a hand. It doesn’t have to be a church you attend.
  • Volunteer to help watch kids during a Bible study for new moms.  There are programs across the country that bring together moms for fellowship that need help caring for the children while the parents take a needed break, such as MOPS.


There are also great organizations you can connect with such as Volunteer Match and Mentor that can connect you with other opportunities unique to your area and skill set.  Whether you choose a simple, spontaneous random act of kindness, take a little time to spread your joy, or regularly connect with others, the act of spreading goodwill and joy to others can be good for your emotional health!

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