55 Free Ways to Spread Kindness (Plus 10 Bonus Ideas Under $10) - Sunny Day Designs
It's a brand new year! Welcome to 2024.
What I love most about the start of every new year is that the beginning of January always feels like a fresh, clean slate - an opportunity for each of us to adjust and improve our everyday lives for the better.
As a small business owner, I always plan my goals for the upcoming year during the last week of December, after the end of the busy holiday sales season. It's a quieter time of the year and it gives me an opportunity to review what I was able to achieve in my small business during the previous year while reflecting on the goals that I hope to achieve during the upcoming year. I also use that time of year as an opportunity to review and set my own personal goals.
You may be surprised to learn that one of my biggest business goals for 2024 is to find more ways to spread joy and kindness to my Sunny Day Designs customers, followers, and email subscribers.
Sure, don't get me wrong, I have other business goals too! Of course I'd also love to increase my sales, have my products carried in even more boutiques, and release lots of new products and designs...but achieving more kindness and consistency are going to be a major focus for both me and my business during the next 12 months.
Throughout the year I'll be focusing as much as possible on the 7 core values of Sunny Day Designs: kindness, optimism, integrity, quality, whimsy, sustainability and joy. That means you'll be seeing a lot of blog posts with those topics as themes.
Maybe you'd like to focus on adding a bit more kindness to your life as well. If so, great! You've come to the right place - let's work on this together.
We could all use a little more kindness on an everyday basis. We could all use a little more compassion and an extra dose of thoughtfulness.
The best part is that kindness is contagious! When you choose to do something kind for another person you'll also feel better yourself.
So, let's dive in and unleash more kindness on this great big world! I've compiled a list of 65 ideas to get you started (55 ideas that are completely free, plus 10 bonus ideas that will only require about $10).
Hopefully at least 1 idea on this list will speak to you and inspire you to take a step towards a kinder 2024.
Cheers to the new year ahead and to a kinder, more joyful 12 months!
55 Free Ways to Spread Kindness
(Plus 10 Bonus Ideas Under $10)
55 Totally Free Ways to Spread Kindness:
1. Smile at people when you pass them on the sidewalk. You don’t need to know them, talk to them, or even wave if you don’t feel comfortable doing that. Smiling and making brief eye contact is enough to make a difference. Even if they don’t smile back, they will know that you smiled at them. Sometimes it just feels nice to have your presence acknowledged by another human being.
2. Write a positive message or a cheerful quote on a slip of paper and hide it for someone to find. This is a great thing to do at your workplace where people’s morale can run low at times. Pick an inspiring quote or write your own general, positive note with something like “Just so you know…you’re doing great!”. The lucky person who finds it will feel an instant boost of positivity.
3. Try “plogging”, which is an Eco-friendly variation on jogging. The next time you’re looking to get some exercise outside, simply carry a small trash bag with you and pick up any trash that you see as you come across it on your jogging route. Don’t fully stop when picking something up – keep moving and bend down to grab it as you run! Consistently moving and picking up only what you can while jogging makes it feel like more of a game than a chore. Not only is it a fun way to stay active…your neighborhood will be cleaner too!
4. Volunteer at your local food bank. You can help for just an hour or even for an entire day. There are so many different ways to help and volunteer. Contact them to find out what kind of volunteer opportunities they have available.
5. Leave a positive review the next time you buy fast food or purchase something at a store. If you read the print at the bottom of most fast-food receipts and many store receipts there is a URL where you can go online and leave a review. It only takes a few minutes of your time, but it can make a big impact. Most people only leave reviews when they have a negative experience…but leaving a positive review when a fast-food worker or a checkout person goes above and beyond could lead to them getting a promotion, good performance review, or even a raise! Bonus points if you include their name when you leave the review.
6. Check in on your elderly neighbors and family members from time to time, especially if you live next to someone that is elderly, sick, or disabled. This is especially helpful during extreme weather (snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, etc.). Let them know that you’re thinking of them and remind them that they can call you if they need help in the future.
7. Donate blood. It only takes about 45 minutes of your day to do, but it really can save a life – especially if you have a negative blood type or a blood type that is more in-demand.
8. Leave a note inside someone's lunch bag/lunchbox. This one isn’t just for people who have children - you can also do this if you have a partner, family member, or roommate who takes their lunch to work or school.
9. Collect a few rogue shopping carts and bring them over to the cart corral the next time you’re in the parking lot at the grocery store, Target, Walmart, etc. It only takes a few minutes to do and requires very minimal effort, but it’s a considerate thing to do for your fellow shoppers and the store employees.
10. Call someone and tell them how much they mean to you.
11. Offer to babysit for someone who has young children – whether it’s just for an hour or it’s for an entire evening, they’ll appreciate the opportunity to have a little break, grab a coffee, take a nap, go on a date with their partner, or get some important errands done.
12. Bake a batch of donuts, cookies, or cupcakes for your coworkers and bring them to your office. Not because they’re for someone’s birthday…just as an unexpected surprise!
13. Volunteer to help out at your local nursing home, assisted living center, or retirement community. There are many different areas at these places where you can volunteer in different capacities. Personally, my favorite place to volunteer at nursing homes is in the crafts/art department or as a helper for recreational activities, like playing board games or hosting trivia and bingo nights. I’ve also volunteered to be a helper when residents go on field trips to museums, take the bus to go get groceries, etc. Not only is it rewarding to brighten someone else’s day, it’s also a fun way to volunteer!
14. Hold the door for someone.
15. Randomly text a friend with a photo of a cute animal.
16. Give someone a genuine compliment.
17. Forgive someone you’re holding a grudge against. This one is difficult (especially if you’re like me and you don’t forgive people easily). Not only is forgiveness completely free to give, you’ll also reap the benefits of letting go and releasing that emotional grudge. You don’t even need to tell them that you’re forgiving them…just treat them differently the next time you cross paths with them and decide in your heart that you’re letting go.
18. Tell someone ‘Good Morning”, “Good Afternoon”, or “Good Evening” and look them in the eye when you greet them.
19. Become a mentor and share your work-related skills, tips, and knowledge with someone who wants to follow a similar career path. Children, teens, young adults, and college-aged people are especially eager to learn and would love to have someone to contact if they have a question, need career advice, or are facing a work-related dilemma. But people of all ages can benefit from having a mentor they trust and look up to. Remember to be generous with your time and to be supportive of their career path goals.
20. Be polite to cashiers and salespeople. They are standing on their feet constantly during the day (often in uncomfortable shoes/heels) and they frequently have to deal with customers that are rude or less than kind. Say “hello” back to them when they greet you, wait patiently while you’re in the checkout line, and thank them when you leave the store. Kindness is contagious and these little niceties can really make their workday more pleasant.
21. Cook and drop off a hot meal for someone who is ill, grieving, recently had a baby, is elderly, or who is going through a difficult time. If you’re not sure if they have food allergies, dietary restrictions for health reasons, or if they follow a specific diet as part of their religion or lifestyle – simply let them know you’d love to help them by bringing them a home-cooked meal and ask them if there are any ingredients that you should avoid. Finding out this information in advance is a kind way to show them that you truly care and want to help by sharing your cooking skills.
22. Give someone your undivided attention. Turn off your phone and put it away so that you won’t be distracted. If there’s a TV nearby, turn that off also. It’s so rare these days for people to be without their phones, but having a conversation without the interruption of a text, news alert, or a phone call will allow you to focus more fully on them during the conversation and will signal to them that you’re fully engaged and listening to what they’re saying and how they’re feeling.
23. Draw or paint a picture and send it to a friend.
24. Give encouragement to someone who is struggling or who had a recent life setback. Reassure them that they’re on the right track, you believe in them, and you’re in their corner cheering them on!
25. Spread the word to others about your favorite small business or restaurant. Send a text or an email to your friends and family with a link to their website, write a positive business review on Google, write a post recommending your favorite small business to others on social media, nominate or vote for the business to win local business awards, or use word-of-mouth to tell others about the business. No matter how you spread the word, it’s always helpful for a small business to have more exposure and positive recommendations, especially in their local community!
26. Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk when it snows.
27. If you grow fruits or vegetables in a home garden, collect and save the seeds from your plants after you harvest your produce. Once they’re dried and stored properly, you can give the seeds to others so that they can plant them next year in their own garden! Give them to a friend, or donate the seeds to an organization in your local community that maintains a produce garden for people living with food insecurity. Food banks, schools, churches, and other organizations often have small gardens of their own where they grow produce for people who are in need of fresh, healthy food.
28. Offer to help clean someone’s home, pickup groceries, or run a few errands when you can tell that they’re overwhelmed, dealing with grief, or feeling depressed. Remember, we can all use a helping hand from time to time.
29. Write a letter to an incarcerated inmate. Sending an encouraging letter to someone in the prison system can provide the recipient with a renewed sense of hope, encouragement and validation. It can also provide you with an opportunity to learn about different life experiences and perspectives. To learn more and get involved, check out this blog post from The Innocence Project.
30. Offer to walk someone’s dog or to pet-sit for them if a situation arises in the future where it would be helpful.
31. Share and pass on your knowledge and talents to the next generation. Do you know how to play the piano? Can you help as a math tutor? Maybe you know how to sew or you love to cook? Everyone has a talent worth sharing with others and it’s great for kids to learn and try something new as well.
32. Offer to help someone rake their leaves. Perhaps you have a neighbor that’s a single parent or you live next to someone who is elderly and could use a hand with their yard work.
33. Text someone a funny knock-knock joke out of the blue.
34. Say hello or make friendly small talk with the cashier at the grocery store.
35. Show support by attending free festivals, performances, farmer’s markets, artist markets, outdoor concerts, poetry readings and other fun community events near you. Showing up at these types of community events is a fun way you can show support for, and cheer on, people in your community as they volunteer, perform, and exhibit their wares. Providing your support by attending is especially helpful if it’s the first time the event is happening.
36. Volunteer to do landscaping, plant trees, or tend a garden in your local community. Bonus: you’ll get to enjoy being outside on a nice day while you spread some kindness!
37. Bake a pie for your neighbor. This can be especially nice thing to do after you go fruit-picking at a U-pick farm during the Summer or Fall months. It’s a great way to use all of the fruit that you pick and it will feel more meaningful to your neighbor knowing that you picked all of the fruit in the pie yourself!
38. Make handmade cards and send them to a nursing home to brighten up the resident’s day. You might be surprised (and saddened) to learn that many residents don’t receive a lot of visitors at all, which can feel very lonely. Receiving a handmade card from someone, even a stranger, will mean the world to them and will go a long way toward banishing the loneliness blues.
39. Donate a book you’ve already read that’s in good condition to your local library or (as long as it’s family-friendly) add it to a Little Free Library location in your community. Click here to learn more about the Little Free Library movement.
40. Be kind to yourself. Practice self-care and remember to give yourself some space to relax and recharge when needed. When you feel better yourself, chances are you’ll also be kinder and more patient with others. Make yourself a warm cup of tea, read a new book, and cuddle up on the couch to rest for a bit.
41. Bake a batch of cookies and drop them off at your local fire station or police station.
42. Donate extra unopened toiletries (even sample sized items) to local homeless shelters, women’s shelters, and veteran’s organizations. Many chapters of The Salvation Army and Ronald McDonald House locations also gladly accept new/unopened toiletry supplies as donations.
43. Donate food or other items to your local non-profit. Food can be donated to homeless shelters and food banks. Toys, housewares, clothing and other new/lightly used supplies to local nonprofits or to Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or other charity thrift store locations.
44. Give someone a hug.
45. Write a fun poem or a haiku and leave it somewhere to be found.
46. Give up your seat to someone else and stand if there aren’t enough spaces for everyone to sit. This is especially easy to do if you take public transportation (buses, trains, etc.), but you can also do this at a packed performance, a free lecture/reading, or even when attending a crowded religious service.
For example, my dad has given up his seat at our local Christmas church service every single year for as long as I can remember - It's become a small kindness tradition for him, which I think is wonderful.
47. The next time you eat out at a restaurant with large portions, ask your server for a to-go box/doggy bag and 1 package of disposable silverware. It’s actually best to ask for these items at the beginning of your meal, just after the food is delivered to your table – that way, you can box up some of your food before you even start eating. You won’t miss the extra food if it’s boxed up before you start eating and it is also a more sanitary way to package up the food. Then, after you leave the restaurant, offer the boxed, to-go meal to any homeless people that you see who might be hungry. If they’re hungry, they may jump at the surprise opportunity to enjoy a high-quality meal from a restaurant.
48. Pick some flowers from your yard and give them to someone who is having a difficult day.
49. Host a recipe swap event or share some of your favorite recipes with a friend or family member.
50. When you come across an interesting article that reminds you of a friend or family member, forward it to them via email or text with a little note letting them know that it made you think of them and that you hope they’re doing well. It will brighten their day to know that you’re thinking about them.
51. Take the time to attend a funeral, wake or memorial when someone you know passes away. Even if they were just an acquaintance or a former classmate or coworker, their family and friends will appreciate the kind gesture and it is meaningful that you took the time to be there in person. You’ll also get a sense of comfort when you have the opportunity to grieve and say “goodbye” to them in person.
52. Call, text, or email a friend that you haven’t seen in a while and invite them to a coffee date to catch up and chat.
53. Thank a veteran for their service and sacrifice. Look them in the eye and shake their hand.
54. The next time that you’re in a group setting and you notice that someone is new-to-the-group or doesn’t seem to have anyone to talk to, make an effort to say hi to them and spend 5 minutes talking to them so that they feel more at-ease. Ask them their name and find out about their interests. Share a joke or just talk about the weather. Find out how they know the host. There are so many things that you can discuss and they will feel more welcome and far less anxious knowing that someone showed an interest in meeting them…who knows, you may even make a new friend!
55. Cheer someone on at a competition or sporting event! Maybe you have a nephew that plays little league baseball or a friend who is running a marathon or 5K. Attending events like these are typically free and it will mean the world to them that you took the time to be there to support them and cheer them on while they play or compete!
10 Ways to Spread Kindness for $10 Or Less:
1. Mail someone a spontaneous letter, greeting card, or a postcard. The current cost of a US postcard stamp = $0.51 & the current cost of a US letter stamp = $0.66. Postcards and greeting cards aren’t expensive to buy, but receiving a hand written note in the mail doesn’t happen much these days, so it will feel extra special when they open one addressed to them! Just think - your message will be a fun surprise among the pile of bills and advertisements that most of us receive in the mail.
2. Remember, a little kindness to yourself is important too! Treat yourself to a few “little luxuries” from time-to-time, such as a bottle of nail polish in a fun shade, a new candle in a scent that you love, some fun stickers to liven up your daily planner, or even a new journal where you can write down your thoughts and reflect. Sometimes it’s the little things that brighten up your day the most!
(Pictured: Evil Eye recycled paper 4x6 sticker sheet by Sunny Day Designs)
3. Purchase a package or two of new socks, underwear, or undershirts and donate them to a local homeless shelter, children’s home, or women’s shelter in your community. Fresh underwear and socks are always in demand as donations since they’re a necessity for everyone that comes through their doors.
4. Add on an extra $5 - $10 in tips for your waitstaff the next time you eat out or grab a coffee. It may not seem like much money, but to a worker who likely makes close to minimum wage, an extra $5 or $10 can really boost their spirits and help them out financially.
5. Donate $5 or $10 to your favorite cause or nonprofit. Small donations from multiple people can add up quickly. Remember, no amount of money is too small to make a difference.
6. Get a pen pal and write them letters. Some pen pal services charge money, but many are free or inexpensive to sign up!
In addition to finding a pen pal here in the USA, you can also sign up for an international pen pal for an extra unique experience. Having an international pen pal allows you to learn more about your pal’s culture/country. It also gives them the opportunity to practice writing in English and/or gives you the chance to practice writing and communicating in a different language. Alternatively, you can send letters back and forth to someone you already know!
Being a pen pal can be a wonderful experience for children, in particular, because it helps them learn valuable communication skills, gives them a chance to practice their handwriting, teaches them how to address mail and use postage. Plus, it also fosters empathy, improves social skills, and encourages children to making new friendships.
7. Buy and give away a $10 gift card to your local coffee shop or bakery. Keep it in your car, wallet, or purse so that you have it at the ready. Then, give it away to a stranger or a friend as a surprise if you notice that they’re having a hard day. It’s a small gesture of kindness that will bring them joy and could help them turn their day around. Bonus: you'll also be supporting a local business in your own community.
8. The next time you buy candy from a vending machine, intentionally buy an extra item and leave it in the bottom part of the vending machine after it falls down. That way, the next person that uses the vending machine will find an extra surprise treat – which will definitely make their day!
9. Create an impromptu scavenger hunt in your local community and invite people to participate on social media!
First, gather a few “prizes” for your scavenger hunt - fun items such as vinyl stickers, vinyl magnets, tiny plastic figurines or even a few $5 plastic gift cards…things that are inexpensive and waterproof are especially great so that you can leave them outside without worrying that they’ll be damaged.
Note: I've added links above to a few of my own made in the USA product categories, just to give you some ideas of items that would work well.
Next, intentionally place each item in various areas around your community with a small sign next to each item that says “FREE TO TAKE – Enjoy your day! : )”, or something similar. You’ll also want to take a close-up photo of the item in the location where it’s been hidden (one that gives people a hint of where it is but doesn’t make it completely obvious). For example, if you were to place something in a landscaped area by a shrub, the close-up photo you take could show the item sitting on the mulch with some green bush branches in the background.
Finally, right after you place the items, post on social media that you’ve hidden a few surprise items around town for an impromptu scavenger hunt and add the close-up images in the post as hints for people. Hiding the items is fun and it also creates a fun activity/surprise for whoever discovers the hidden items!
I actually did this myself several years ago and, on a whim one day, I hid multiple Decatur Peach car magnets around downtown Decatur, GA, when my husband and I were living there. People had a lot of fun finding them it was so fun to hear that I had brightened up their day when they stumbled upon a unexpected prize while just walking around their local downtown area!
10. "Craft for a cause” and put your sewing, crochet, knitting, or papercraft skills to good use by creating handmade items requested by charities. There are many charities throughout the USA looking for donations of handmade items that are actively looking for donations created by crafters. Click below to learn more about some of my favorite “create for a cause” organizations:
- Operation Gratitude: Create a ‘handmade with love’ item
- Knots Of Love: Crochet or Knit blankets & beanies for cancer patients
- Warm Up America! Foundation: Create knit or crochet blanket squares
- Ryan’s Case for Smiles: Sew whimsical pillowcases for hospitalized kids
- Cardz for Kidz: Handmade paper cards for children, seniors & veterans
- Animal Friends Alliance: Make dog toys, cat toys, no-sew dog beds & snuffle mat.