The subtle power of kindness: 15 small acts that make a big difference in other people’s lives

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“There’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”

– Scott Adams

Picture the last time you did one simple thing to make someone’s day better. How did it make you feel? Were you giddy with delight for the rest of the day?

Now, imagine a world where thousands of people commit to making a small, unexpected kind gesture every single day. What a joy that would be.

The truth is, all of us can use more kindness in our lives. And we all have the power to be kind. 

If you want to create your “kindness chain,” read on. Here are small, simple, humble yet powerful acts of kindness that go a long way in transforming people’s lives.

1) Smiling

What can be more heartwarming than a genuine smile?  

There are countless reasons to share your smile with the world — it keeps you healthy and happy and it makes you more welcoming and trustworthy.

And the best part? It’s contagious. It can reassure anyone and tell them “It’s going to be okay.”

So, smile more often — you’ll be surprised and happy to see the smiles you get in return. 

2) Paying someone a sincere compliment

One of the best ways to pass on the love is by giving compliments that come from the heart.

Sure, telling someone that they look great is nice, but it pays to dig a little deeper and be more thoughtful.

  • “You’ve come so far.” 
  • “I really appreciate you.” 
  • “You inspire me.” 
  • “You’re brave.” 
  • “You’re an amazing parent/sibling/friend.” 

All of these phrases go a long way.

3) Being an active listener

When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really care about what they have to say? 

Do you go beyond those “I’m okay” or “I’m fine” answers and give them a safe space to elaborate more if they like?

Do you put everything else aside and give them your undivided attention?

Active listening becomes an act of love and real kindness when you do it with your heart, and when you hear without judgment. 

4) Checking in with people who matter most

You can never be too busy to be kind. Sometimes, all it takes is to call that parent, grandparent, or friend you haven’t spoken to for a long while. 

Giving people in your life an unexpected check-in to say hi and to ask how they’re doing is one of the simplest ways to show them that they matter.

5) Comforting someone

I believe that being present is one of the most powerful acts of kindness

Grieving the loss of my father is a painful experience that I can’t even begin to put into words.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the experience, it’s this: Sometimes, just knowing someone is there with you is everything.

People who are going through a tough time can take comfort in knowing that they have someone they can lean on for connection and support. 

6) Forgiving someone

Many studies have shown how letting go of a grudge can benefit your overall health and well-being.

But we should never underestimate the power of forgiveness to transform and in many ways, heal, the person on the receiving end. 

Forgiving is a difficult process but when we choose to do it, it helps us achieve a sense of peace — for ourselves and for the person who hurt us. 

7) Appreciating people for their service

No one deserves extra gratitude and praise more than the people who keep our everyday lives functioning.

You know, the doctors, nurses, members of the military, teachers, grocery workers, baristas, waiters, delivery riders, cleaners, and all the people who make our world a better place.

Any gesture to uplift them — like giving those “Thank yous” or leaving a little extra tip, giving rave reviews, and more — is kindness like no other. 

8) Empowering your coworkers

Encouraging kindness in the workplace isn’t just a nice thing to do. 

It comes with many benefits — from increasing productivity, motivation, and morale to fostering connection and trust among employees.

Here are some ways to brighten up a coworker’s day:

  • Say thank you and mean it
  • Bring snacks or treats to the office
  • Take a coworker out to lunch or coffee
  • Share a conversation with a coworker
  • Recognize a coworker’s hard work and celebrate their accomplishments
  • Actively listen to a colleague

9) Caring for the elderly

There’s no denying that old age can take a toll on the mind, body, and spirit. 

That’s why it’s good to maximize every opportunity to keep the seniors in our lives happy and healthy. You can show your kindness to the elderly by ….

  • Offering to let them go ahead of you in line
  • Accompanying them for their regular checkups
  • Walking with them
  • Reading with (or to) them
  • Playing games or puzzles with them
  • Spending time with them to lift their moods
  • Listening to their stories and pieces of advice

10) Mentoring a young person

One thing that amazes me about today’s young people is that they’re already looking for more meaning and depth in their lives than most of us realize.

Adults can be kinder to the younger generations by helping them build meaningful and valuable relationships that add value to their lives.

This also involves giving them the support, guidance, and trust they need to embrace their uniqueness and carve their own path. 

Recognizing their potential, involving them in decision-making processes, and making them feel awesome — all of these are kind gestures that can help transform a young person’s life. 

11) Supporting someone who is struggling 

Every day is another chance to make someone’s day easier. There’s always someone who could use an extra hand.

Do you know someone with children who might want to take a day for themselves? Offer to babysit for them.

Is a loved one or friend feeling particularly anxious or depressed? Maybe you can run errands for them or clean their place.

Seeing a homeless person on your way to work? Maybe you can give them a meal.

Keep in mind though that support looks different for everyone. Instead of guessing what would be helpful to a person, try to ask “How can I support you?”

12) Donating

When you donate items, supplies, or money, you accomplish either one of these:

  • You give new life to old stuff
  • You make a real difference to people in need

From books and cardboard boxes to clothes, shoes, old crayons, excess produce, old electronics, old toys, musical instruments, furniture, medical equipment, and more — you can donate almost anything.

Make your money and your gifts go as far as possible by supporting a cause you truly believe in. 

This brings me to my next point….

13) Volunteering

One of the selfless things we can do for others is to donate our time and energy to the greater good.

If you can dedicate just a few hours of your week to something bigger than yourself, you can definitely make a difference in your life and someone else’s.

There are many ways to volunteer — from helping out at a local food pantry to getting involved in local elections, volunteering to walk dogs and more.

Choose a volunteer opportunity that matches your skills, interests, and passions. 

14) Helping save the environment

What better way to make a difference than doing your part to protect and save Mother Nature?

There are many habits you can start adopting today to be a little kinder to Earth. You can…

  • Plant a tree
  • Pick up litter 
  • Use leftovers
  • Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
  • Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth
  • Swap plastic bags for reusable ones
  • Shop sustainable brands

15) Sharing your knowledge and talents

Being kind doesn’t require you to go out of your way to do something new or different. You can always use a skill or talent you have to help someone who could benefit from it.

Do you have killer writing skills? Help a friend or loved one who needs to hone theirs. 

Are you tech-savvy? Be patient with a grandparent who wants to learn how to use emails or Facebook. 

Final thoughts

And this list goes on and on. There are so many little yet powerful ways to pay it forward. 

I hope this article inspires you to do at least one simple act of kindness each day. 

Maria Fatima Reyes

Fat Niebres is a freelance writer who loves to chase stories that matter. She finds meaning and inspiration in the mundane. When she's not writing, she's probably reading, eating, traveling, or having deep conversations with her husband. She brings her experience in broadcast, print, and NGO communications, and has been published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and

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