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Tip sheet: Planning those random acts of kindness

February 13, 2017

All you need to do is smile at someone, perhaps hold open a door or buy someone a cup of coffee.

The result, said Nance Lucas, executive director of George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, would be a burst of dopamine in your brain.

“It’s a neurotransmitter commonly referred to as the ‘helper’s high,’ ” Lucas said. “So when we help others, we help ourselves.”

That is the message behind National Random Acts of Kindness Day on Feb. 17. There also is Random Acts of Kindness Week (Feb. 12-18) started by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

And, boy, do we need them.

“It seems to me that random acts of kindness and compassion are particularly important in this moment of our country’s evolution,” said Rose Pascarell, vice president for University Life at George Mason. “We are moving through a larger national environment that is increasingly polarized and acrimonious.”

Additionally, Lucas said, it is documented that among university and college students “mental health challenges are at historically high levels. There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety, levels of depression, chronic stress, so committing random acts of kindness helps to socially connect with others, and that is a boost to psychological well-being.”

So take a minute, Pascarell said, acknowledge a friend or a colleague, leave a thank you note for someone who performed a service for you.

“These are all expressions of kindness that cost us very little,” she added.

“We have to put this in the forefront of our minds every day so it becomes habitual,” Lucas said. “It’s not about one week of the year; it’s about the other weeks of the year as well. Just think, if seven billion people on this planet did one act of kindness every day, can you imagine what the world would look like? It would change how we connect with one another socially and in a community.”

Nance Lucas, executive director of Mason’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, is an expert in positive psychology, leadership, well-being and ethics. She is co-founder of the Mason Institute for Leadership Excellence, and has a PhD in higher education from the University of Maryland. She can be reached at 703-993-6090 or nlucas2@gmu.edu.

Rose Pascarell, vice president for University Life, has worked on campus climate and multicultural/diversity issues for 15 years. Her teachings and workshops focus on race, class, gender, sexuality and the formation of just communities through the examination of differences. She has a master’s degree in sociology from George Mason University. She can be reached at 703-993-8760 or rpascare@gmu.edu.

For more information, contact Damian Cristodero at 703-993-9118 or dcristod@gmu.edu.

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls more than 35,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.