Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) bring happiness to strangers when they least expect it. The goal of such acts are "To make our world a kinder place one act at a time." The RAK movement was started in 1982, by a woman named Anne Herbert. She wrote the phrase "practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" on a placemat in a restaurant in Sausalito, California. Years later, Anne wrote Random Acts of Kindness, a book about true stories of acts of kindness. As the movement grew, more and more people were inspired by the idea that simple acts of kindness, directed toward strangers, could change the world for the better. RAK is now internationally known and celebrated on different days around the world and continues to have a positive impact on people’s lives.
Random Acts of Kindness not only bring happiness to the people around you, but also to yourself. Finding new ways to connect is a wonderful experience, and being kind to others brings fulfillment to your life overall. In addition, being kind is actually scientifically proven to make you happier and healthier! According to David R. Hamilton PhD, “Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body. Of recent interest is its significant role in the cardiovascular system”.
In the United States, February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Day. However, making the world a kinder place shouldn’t be limited to just one day of the year. Here are ten ways people can perform random acts of kindness every day:
1. Pay for the person behind you on your morning coffee run- the smallest things can put a smile on someone’s face, and free coffee early in the morning could make someone’s day just a little bit brighter.
2. Commend a co-worker on their work- everyone deserves to have their efforts recognized, no matter how big or small!
3. Buy extra groceries and donate them to your local food pantry- every bit counts and you can help people in your community during a grocery trip you’d go on anyway.
4. Send a note (or text) to encourage a friend- you never know how people are feeling, and hearing from you just might make their day!
5. Bring sweets to share at work- surprise snacks are a great way to bring positivity into the office, and what better way to greet those you haven’t had the chance to meet yet than with food. Building community make everyone feel welcome and special and makes for a positive work environment.
6. Let someone ahead of you in line- we all know the feeling of dread when we see that the person ahead of us at the grocery store has a cart brimming with groceries and we just want to buy a loaf of bread. Make someone’s day by letting them go ahead of you- who knows? Someone may return the favor down the road.
7. Compliment someone- it can be as simple as their new hairstyle, or their shoes, but compliments are sure to make someone smile and they help you to see the best in others.
8. Volunteer in your community- whether it’s at a soup kitchen or a local school, you can help your community flourish with just a few hours of your time.
9. Introduce yourself to your neighbor- it’s easy to go about life in a constant rush, but making meaningful connections with the people around you creates a sense of community for everyone!
10. Invite someone to lunch- whether it’s a stranger who seems interesting, or a new co-worker in the office, a simple, friendly gesture can go a long way, and you never know who you’ll meet by just introducing yourself.
A podcast called “She’s All Fat” uses the tagline: “Body positivity, radical self-love, and chill vibes only.” In my opinion, this is the perfect way to describe both the podcast (hosted by two fabulous, hilarious, and brilliant self identified “fatties,” Sophie and April, who discuss the intersection of body positivity and current events) and the body positivity movement in general. Sophie and April champion radical, thoughtful, intersection body positivity, meaning it recognizes the many oppressions it fights against, and the many people it supports. Too often, body positivity is watered down, leaving behind those it was created for, which I discuss below.
This largely watered down (though still important—it’s complicated, I know) body positivity movement can be found thriving in the fashion industry and on Instagram, with over 4 million photos posted using the #bodypositivity or #BoPo hashtags, and brands giving up Photoshopped ads and hiring models of different sizes. One may think body positivity simply aims for the acceptance of all sized bodies, and/or greater representation of all sized bodies in ads and television roles. And there’s nothing wrong with that—in fact, it’s great. But that barely scratches the surface of what body positivity means, where it came from, and what it really strives for.
Body positivity grew out of activism in the late 1960s which specifically championed the rights of one particularly marginalized group—fat people. It was then known as the fat acceptance movement, and battled anti-fat discrimination and celebrated plus-size bodies. According to BitchMedia, in 1967 there was a “‘fat-in’ in New York City’s Central Park to ‘protest discrimination against [fat people].’ More than 500 people showed up…carrying banners that read ‘Fat Power’ and ‘Buddha Was Fat’ and wearing buttons that read ‘Take a Fat Girl to Dinner.’” The organizer told the New York Times, “People should be proud of being fat…We want to show we feel happy, not guilty. That’s why we’re here."
A year later, Lew Louderback published an article in the Saturday Evening Post called “More People Should Be Fat.” Two years after that, he published Fat Power: Whatever You Weigh Is Right, “one of the first books that directly challenged the diet industry’s toehold on women, and pushed to upend and dismantle fat-phobic systems.” After that, fat acceptance quickly became an organized activist movement. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) was founded in 1969, and has been fighting against size discrimination ever since.
According to Fusion, “One of the core principles of NAAFA, and fat activism more broadly, is that most of the ideas we promote about fatness and health are just plain wrong. Instead of blindly treating fatness as an indicator of poor health, fat activists argue for a Health At Every Size model. Under this framework, it’s not whether you’re fat or what shape your body is that matters—everyone is encouraged to engage in healthy lifestyles and eating habits, and vital signs like blood pressure and cholesterol and general wellness are treated as more important measures of health than weight or BMI.”
While fat activism and anti-size discrimination are very important, they tend to be missing from the mainstream (read: watered down) body positive narrative, which is unfortunate. The original radical goals of fat activism pushed for an understanding of the diet and beauty industries, and the oppression they subject (mostly) women to, resulting in widespread low self esteem and unrealistic expectations. The activists wanted people to understand the oppression and even trauma they’re often put through—bullying, eating disorders, low self esteem—which are largely caused by and for the diet and beauty industries. They also wanted concrete policy changes to support—or at the very least, not harm—fat people. At the time (and still today) fat people were being discriminated against in the workplace, in medical spaces and by medical professionals, and being unfairly judged and chastised by society simply because of their size. Most of the people chastising them knew nothing of their actual health, they were simply assuming and projecting their beliefs and unsolicited advice onto people because of their waistline. Radical fat activists in this movement and part of the Fat Underground, a radical offshoot of NAAFA, followed radical feminist therapy, a belief that oppression causes mental distress. Additionally, they believed fat-phobia was created by the diet industry to line their own pockets. Over the last 30 years, fat activism has begun to blossom in academia through the burgeoning field of Fat Studies.
BitchMedia writes that “as fashion becomes more body positive, the push to make other institutions—including media, law, schools, and housing—more inclusive of people whose bodies have been marginalized has been sidelined. As legislators pass ‘bathroom bills’ that target trans and gender nonconforming people, airlines make it difficult for plus-size people to travel, and the Department of Education dismantles protections for people with disabilities, body positivity has morphed to singularly focus on fashion, empowerment, and selling products.” However, the people who created the fat acceptance movement are now being largely omitted by the body positivity movement, its modern predecessor. BitchMedia explains: “[Body positivity is] a complete departure from the radical politics of fat acceptance, the movement that birthed body positivity. In the age of #bodypositivity, what are the aims of the current movement, who gets centered and celebrated, and what bodies are considered ‘good bodies?’” In other words, “Body positivity was supposed to be one tenet of fat acceptance, a means of empowering ourselves and affirming our relationship with our bodies. It wasn’t meant to overtake the radical roots of the original movement.”
Though it certainly strays from its original intentions in many ways, body positivity is still very important as a tool of empowerment and self acceptance. It helps people of all genders embrace their bodies for what they are, and accept that the beauty and body standards put forth by diet industries are almost entirely fabricated and unrealistic. Body positivity puts the power back into people’s hands—literally, by typing a simple hashtag on Instagram one can be part of the body positivity community and find others who identify as such. In this way, by people engaging on social media and in the outside world, body positivity and fat acceptance can keep reaching new people, and we can collectively rethink what we’ve been told about our bodies.
It’s been said that the only constant in life is change. If that is the case, then why is change sometimes so difficult to cope with when it happens?
Perhaps it is that when change occurs, it doesn’t provide much warning, so there’s little time to prepare. When we are caught off guard, we are forced to react instinctively as opposed to being able to tackle events proactively. Although change in and of itself may be scary, and at times anxiety provoking, change doesn’t always have to be synonymous with something bad.
Perhaps if we look at change in a more positive light we can start thinking of it as a means for personal growth, forward progress, and a pathway to meeting challenges we didn’t know we were capable of. This is not to say that adapting to change is easy. At times the process is uncomfortable, painful, and nerve-racking. But the beauty of change is that it keeps us on our toes, provides new opportunities to push ourselves further than we thought possible, and prove to ourselves that we are still capable of growth no matter where we are in life.
Besides, how boring would life be if every day was the same? No surprises, no speed bumps, no road blocks. What would we talk about? How would we connect with others?
One of the main reasons to get comfortable with change is that the world around us is in constant flux. Things are being transformed, converted, altered, modified, repurposed, and revolutionized on a daily basis. Change is an inevitable process, and fighting it is an uphill battle that nobody can win, and trying to keep everything exactly the same, so that nothing is different is exhausting and unsustainable.
How we can reframe this concept if accepting change is difficult, is to try and see things from a different perspective. One way is to manage expectations of ourselves and of those around us. People are malleable, and when exposed to different experiences like life events, job transition, higher education, or a new skill/hobby they might be a little bit different than they were before. If we become comfortable with the idea that our environment and the people around us are constantly changing, then it’s not so jarring or unexpected when they do.
Learning to accept change is a work in progress. Sometimes we have to just breath deeply when we are exposed to events or life circumstances that make us uncomfortable knowing that the discomfort is often temporary. Meditation, journaling, exercise, and talking to others around us can help us better understand who we are, how we see the world, and put us in a frame of mind in which we can see things in ways we didn’t initially.
As we get older, health and wellness becomes more important to prioritize. There are many ways in which we can improve both mental and physical wellness as we approach our 20s and beyond. Here are three major areas of your life that you can focus on to increase your overall wellness.
Cooking for yourself, even if you only make one meal a day, helps control your nutrition and saves you money. Starting your day with a protein-rich breakfast, including a variety of vegetables and fruit, and cutting back on sugar and empty calories all make positive changes to your overall health.
If you’ve ever struggled with your relationship to food, cooking at home or in your dorm can help you in other ways as well. Having control over what goes into your meals, the size of your portions, and when you eat can make it easier to change how you think about food. In their article “17 Simple Habits You Need to Adopt to be Healthy in Your 20s”, Sacha Strebe talks with registered dietician Michelle Babb about our relationships with food. Babb explains “If you respond to your body's requests and learn to be in partnership with your body instead of fighting against it or trying to beat it into submission, you will reap the benefits of optimal health that you can sustain with ease.”
If you don’t have the time or resources to come up with meal plans, you can add a meal delivery service or grocery delivery to your budget.
Adding exercise to your routine does not have to include a gym membership or a yoga studio, though of course it can. If you are a student, find out what free or inexpensive resources are available on your campus. There may be great hiking or biking trails nearby or even on your campus.
In her article for the New York Times, “The 8 Habits Experts Say You Need in your 20s”, Tara Parker-Pope talks about the importance of adding activity to your life. Even getting out for a half hour a few times a week, walking or biking instead of taking public transit, or stretching when you get out of bed in the morning can make a difference. If you prefer indoor activity, spending the day at a museum or even a shopping mall, as long as you’re on your feet and moving around, can help you stay more active. Always bring a water bottle with you to help you stay hydrated.
Your twenties are usually a time when you start living a more independent lifestyle, which also means you start taking care of yourself in ways you may not have been responsible for in the past. Practicing self-care ranges from simple health and hygiene—remembering to wear sunscreen, going to the doctor and dentist regularly even if you aren’t sick, and getting tested for STIs if you are sexually active. If you are sick, take a day or two off from work and relax while you’re at home.
Speaking of work, don’t be afraid to use your vacation days. Even taking a long weekend to unplug and decompress at home can help you take a break and reset your mind when you return. Striking a healthy work/life balance or school/life balance can help build a strong foundation for good physical and mental health.
Mental health can be harder to know how to treat. But taking time to practice mindfulness and meditation can help you relax and center yourself. Checking in with your stress levels and understanding when it’s time to see a therapist or psychiatrist is essential. If you haven’t been fortunate enough to find a job that you love (and even if you have), taking up a hobby or working on a passion project outside of work can help, if you have the time. If you’re attending school, taking an elective class or joining a club can serve the same purpose.
There are many other ways to increase wellness, including healthy sleep routines and regularly disconnecting from technology. What are your favorite wellness tips, and how to they change in your 20s?
Winter is among us. Wind, rain, snow, hail, freezing temperatures, black ice … it’s no wonder staying inside all bundled up is so enticing. When that continues for four months straight though, and you’re on the 6th season of Grey’s Anatomy (you started the show about four days ago) something isn’t right. You become lethargic, impatient, depressed, unmotivated, and withdrawn. You may even crave carbohydrates and find yourself sleeping at odd hours all day (Kelby, 2016). This is when you know you’ve been hit with the mental virus - cabin fever has kicked in.
This state of mental unrest is characterized by symptoms of irritability and listlessness as a result of confinement for long periods of time (Merriam-Webster). A study done in 1984 on The Meaning of “Cabin Fever” aimed to see what this term meant to an average Minnesotan (Rosenwald, 2016). The majority of participants reported “feelings of dissatisfaction at home, restlessness, boredom, irritability, and needing to break routine” (Rosenblatt, et al. 1984).
From these definitions, it is no surprise that cabin fever is most exclusively a side effect of the winter months, especially in areas of extreme weather conditions where going outside is sometimes not an option.
Even though weather is a huge component, it is not the sole contributor. Winter has become synonymous with the holiday season. Children are out of school for a few weeks, many adults take vacation time, and homes begin to fill up. The weather may keep people inside, but so may family obligations. Plus, if you are out of school and out of work, your days are suddenly wide open. Add all that to the typical winter staples such as cozy fireplaces, gingerbread houses, hot cocoa, anything fuzzy and warm, and you’ll notice it all leads to staying inside, even if you live in the warmest areas.
So wherever you are, the winter months will always bring the natural temptation to become a sloth. It’s amazing how much doing nothing can lead to so many negative somethings. But never fear - there are remedies!
Interestingly, recognizing the concept of “cabin fever” in itself can be helpful in connecting the dots and acknowledging what is going on. Once you realize you’re in this rut, it can be much easier to get yourself out of it (Rosenblatt, et al. 1984).
Additionally, here are four categories of solutions that may help you reduce the fever:
Cabin fever is defined by its cause of confinement. Being confined and isolated from the outside world limits one’s activity level. But we are not sloths we are humans. We need stimulation. Getting our hearts pumping and blood flowing increases our mood tenfold. Science has overwhelmingly proven the positive benefits of exercise. So if you can’t get outside or go to a gym, do a workout video, vacuum, or do some jumping jacks in your living
If you can recognize your own cabin fever, you may be introspective enough to help yourself (Rosenblatt, et al. 1984). Examples may include disconnecting from television and social media, deep cleaning your house or room, reading a book, or playing a game. You know you best, so help yourself stimulate your brain by doing some of your favorite activities (Kelby, 2016).
Seek out company
Sometimes we are not the ones to help ourselves and we need outside assistance. You may not want any interaction, but you may need it. Invite your friends and family to make dinner together, play a board game, or even have a movie night. Anything that increases interaction with others helps you feel connected (Gielan, 2011). Making plans with friends and relatives provides purpose, stimulation, and a reason to put on real pants.
Alter your physical/mental scenery
Being stuck in the same environment with the perception of “no way out” is one of the most characteristic symptoms of cabin fever. A way to combat this is to find ways to change your physical and mental environment (Rosenblatt, et al. 1984). After you self-help by deep cleaning your space, move your furniture around to make a whole new room. The novelty of your area will reenergize you.
To change your mental scenery, goals are key. Plan an outing or a trip; make a weight-loss plan or a shopping list. Scheduling exciting things to do and see for the future will give you something to look forward to so you don’t feel so stuck in the present (Gielan, 2011).
If you’re an active go-getter who can’t sit still and is at home mostly to sleep and shower, cabin fever will likely settle in fast. If you’re a natural hermit who has a date with Netflix and wine most nights, it might not kick in for a while; but don’t be fooled, cabin fever affects the entire spectrum of folks, regardless of who you are or where you live. The plus side is that by recognizing what is it, and why it happens, you can learn to reverse its affects by using some of the methods discussed above. It is not an easy task and will require some willpower to get off the couch. If you’re finding it difficult to shake the winter blues even with these tried and true techniques reviewed, just remember that wintertime doesn’t last forever. Soon enough, flowers will bloom and the sun will shine!
Gielan, M. (2011, March 07). Beating cabin fever. Retrieved December 28, 2016, from Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/lights-camera-happiness/201103/beating-cabin-fever
Kelby, M. (2016, February 10). Cabin fever symptoms & solutions - pages 1-2. Retrieved December 28, 2016, from empowher.com,http://www.empowher.com/emotional-health/content/cabin- fever-symptoms-solutions?page=0,1
Rosenblatt, P. C., Anderson, R. M., & Johnson, P. A. (1984). The meaning of “Cabin Fever.” The Journal of Social Psychology, 123(1), 43–53.doi:10.1080/00224545.1984.9924512
Rosenwald, M. S. (2016, January 25). Cabin fever is very, very real, and it has been studied. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2016/01/25/cabin-fever-is-very-very-real-and-it-has-been- studied/?utm_term=.2c922b8662b8
From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, people tend to spend a lot of time and money enjoying meals and celebrations with friends and family. It’s a time for gathering, reflection, over-eating, and looking ahead to the coming year. With that, naturally, comes New Year’s resolutions— and as we all know, these can be very hard to keep. Failed New Year’s resolutions are quintessential— planning a healthy diet for the year to come lasts three weeks, gym memberships are bought and unused, books are ready to read but sit untouched for months on end. You may be wondering, is failure inevitable for even the most well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions? The answer is no! Keep reading to learn how to make your resolutions stick for 2020 and beyond.
Psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD, explains how to best better your life in the new year. “Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for. Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.” One year is a long time, and you do not have to reach your goal immediately. Give yourself time and set reasonable goals and expectations. You’re not going to lose 30 pounds in the first month, but 5 pounds? I bet you can do that.
It’s important not to get discouraged, and to forgive yourself, when you don’t seem to be making gains. You wanted to start going to the gym 4 times a week, but you only made it once? That’s okay, don’t be hard on yourself. Life gets in the way. Try to go twice next week. Better yet, figure out an alternative to the gym if it’s difficult for you to get there as much as you want. Can you walk to work? Go for a brisk stroll during your lunch break? Do an at-home exercise routine? Go for a bike ride on the weekend? Be flexible and open to adjustments. Like any routine, you have to figure out what works best for your life.
If you’re uncertain whether you can keep yourself accountable, consider joining a group or committing to a goal with a friend. Sign up for a gym class or meet a friend at the park for a jog. It can be easier to keep it up if you’re not alone, and you have someone to talk about the journey with.
Most importantly, try and dig deeper. Consider why your particular resolutions are your resolutions, and address the root issue, if there is one. If you’re unhappy with your body, maybe seek body-positive writers and artists to help you reframe the issue. If you feel unhealthy, try adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet and eating less processed ingredients before you resolve to take up weight lifting in 2018. (Not that there’s anything wrong with weight lifting, but is it the answer for you?) In fact, there may be more than one answer. Maybe you want to eat healthier and weight lift. Maybe you don’t want to eat healthier at all. Whatever you decide, take it slow, be open to adjustments, and stay positive and hopeful in the new year.