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A Simple Way to Lift Your Spirits

Originally posted on March 9, 2010

The other day, I found myself feeling unusually uptight. I couldn't quite put a finger on why I felt like busting up some dry wall. I just felt like I was off, like my mind was a pyramid standing upside down trying to balance its point on a right-side-up pyramid.

On my way home, I stopped off at a bank to make a deposit. But I went to a branch that I don't usually go to, and the teller spent what felt like a few minutes scrolling through my history of transactions, trying to size up the possibility that I was attempting to deposit a fraudulent check.

Of course, it didn't help that I was anxious to shake the day off my shoulders, and that I was eager to get home to play with our boys. And then the teller printed off what appeared to be a list of previous transactions from my account and disappeared into a back office.

Another few minutes later, a set of eyes peered around the doorway of the back office and gave me a quick once over, only to disappear for another couple of minutes, though from my vantage point, I could see that "they" had pulled up my account on their monitor and were scrolling again.

By the time the teller came back with her manager in tow, let's just say that I wasn't feeling emotionally balanced. Struggling to contain my frustration and general feeling of uneasiness, I asked, "What's going on?" in a flat tone.

They patiently explained that because they weren't used to seeing me at their branch, they had to check my account to make sure that they didn't have to put a hold on my funds. They also kindly apologized for the wait time, and said that they would be sure to recognize me the next time and avoid a similar delay.

But I felt incapable of playing nice. I told them I would just know better next time and go to my home branch, and though I'm guessing that I managed to blurt this out in a semi-conciliatory tone, unless they were medicated with emotion-numbing drugs, I'm sure that they could feel the heavy, negative force that I was emitting.

And as is usually the case when I behave badly, just a second or two after the interaction was over and I was on my way out to my car, I felt like the world's biggest jerk.

Why did I have to let such petty anger and impatience boil up in me? I knew going in that I was having a tough day, so why wasn't I able to check my negativity at the door and just be patient and kind with a teller who was simply trying to do her job, and who also happened to be quite nice about the delay?

I stewed in my car trying to figure out why I was feeling so darn prickly, and more importantly, what I could do to snap out of it.

Then I remembered: in the past, I was always able to rely on showing unexpected generosity and thoughtfulness as a way of lifting my spirits.

And it just so happened that a couple of days earlier, we received a call from a lady named Lilli at our public library who had found our youngest son's community center ID card, and in recognizing his picture on the card, gave us a call at home to let us know that she had found it.

So I drove straight to a local tea shop, picked up a gift card, and dropped it off for Lilli at the library on my way home.

Almost instantly, I felt healed.

Amazing, right?

I don't even remember what it was that had me on edge that day. I couldn't tell you if it was a client being unkind to me, or a disagreement that I had with a family member. Whatever it was, all it took for me to shed my toxic energy was doing something nice for someone.

I'm so glad that I am back in touch with this kind of magic that we can create at any time to bring peace into our lives. What a great tool to avoid getting sucked into a seemingly inescapable vortex of bad energy.

Bestowing an unexpected act of thoughtfulness and/or generosity on another doesn't require a thick wallet. Not at all.

I remember back when I was a chiropractic student in the suburbs of Chicago, in paying my toll fee on a highway, I would sometimes pay double and let the attendant know that I was also paying for the next person to come through. Even without knowing who I was giving a nice surprise to, that extra 40 cents was a priceless gift to myself.

I think it's pretty clear that we need each other to get through life. We need to feel connected, useful, appreciated. So it makes sense to me that generating good energy through small surprises can change our momentum for the better, no matter how tough a day or week or month or year or string of years we've had.

I was going to write about hiatal hernias during my writing window today, but the voice in my head told me to write about this instead. And I have to say that I'm feeling really good about sharing these thoughts. So good that I feel inspired to get a tea at some drive through window on the way home tonight just so that I can pay for the person behind me and give whoever it is a little boost in faith. Faith in humanity, I mean.

If you have a favorite way of surprising a loved one or a stranger with a thoughtful act or gift, please consider sharing it via the comments or facebook connect sections below. The more ideas we have in our pockets, the better, right? Thanks for reading.


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When I walk through a store, I am often surprised that people smile at me. Sometimes, it's because I have my beautiful golden lab service dog with me--just looking at her makes people feel good, and me too! But sometimes she is not with me and people still smile, and I realized it's because I usually have a big smile on my face and look at them directly. Before I enter the store, I talk to people in my mind, sending them my love and blessings, as appropriate for them. I do the same thing in the morning before I get up and before I go to bed, when I'm waiting in line, or something frustrating is happening. I chant inside, for example, "Love Joy Peace Harmony". There is so much to be grateful for no matter what is happening in our lives or the lives of others.

this is beautiful and a useful tool, thanks, Nancy

I love you way of coping. My son is going through a horrible divorce for no good reason, except his wife of less than a year is not happy. They have a beautiful 1 year old baby son, who now, my son gets to see when the judge tells him he can. I find myself so many times a day, thinking why, with my jaws clenched. I know this is not healthy, therefore, I will defiantly be saying Peach Joy Love Harmony to myself. Thanks so much for the love you send... patty

Thank you! I am married to a man of 12 years who I now suspect has some sort of sensory perception disorder; in other words My Love language of touch rarely ever get's spoken around here. I've stuck it out however because of my faith in Jesus and the re-demption of EVERYTHING! I was almost at my wits end when I stumbled upon your post. Your misspelling of Peace triggered a memory of what I CAN hold onto. He calls me Peaches and even though I am not in a storybook relationship, I do love it when he writes me little notes "To My Peaches" ect..... So Thank-You!

Thanks, Dr Kim, for your article on how to lift your own spirits by giving to others. I appreciate your authenticity. I know I have acted that way when irritated and I feel bad about it afterwards. You gave a real personal example of how negativity begets negativity and how to break the cycle. Thanks!

I don't know how much I would've benefitted from an article on hiatal hernia but the bank incident and how you change your attitude was invaluable. And I love how that kind of honesty about oneself can make me smile! Like, oh, it's okay to be human . . . and recognize it for what it's worth. Thanks for making my day!

It was delightful to read your article on giving. I'm so happy to know that I'm not the only person like this. I had to leave my last job because the people told me they didn't like happy people, and that giving was a sign of weakness. I was told that I was crazy to want to surprise or help people, so I stopped. It was totally refreshing to know that I'm not the only one.

Hi,I noticed the comments about giving.I believe that we are made in God's image,God is always giving to us.He makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.His love is perfect because He is perfect.As He made us in His image we must be made to give.This is confirmed in the words of Jesus when He told us that it is more blessed to give than receive.
Next time you are feeling down try doing something for someone else,maybe a surprise gift for a long forgotten kindness or simply a surprise present for someone that has helped you.
Every blessing in your giving.

I don't want to minimize how good and important acts of kindness are, but the concern I had reading this article is that there are two ways to do this. If we are only being kind to make ourselves feel better, we are not being truly kind.

When an act of kindness is really just to make us feel better about ourselves, it is not the same as when the kindness is all about the other and blessing them or meeting their need. The first kind does not impart the same blessing or depth of impact on the other person.

It is good to pick ourselves out of a funk by getting our mind off of ourselves and focusing on others. But when we are being kind just to make ourselves feel good, we may completely miss the real kindness that would mean the most. One day it might be buying someone's coffee, another day, if we were really attuned to the need around us, it might be a steady look in the eye and a genuine smile with a hello to someone who appears beleaguered. (Maybe that person didn't need an anonymous gift, but a bit of human connection, for example.)

When our act is not about us feeling good, but about blessing someone else, we become sensitive to the smallest details - she needs a smile, not a coffee, or she needs a friendly comment about the two-year-old hanging on her. And in a situation where your heart says smile, a coffee or toll paid instead might not be any blessing at all to the recipient. (What - that Suit thinks I can't afford my own coffee?!)

Just random examples, but the point is that Intentional acts of kindness might be much more powerful than random acts of kindness because they are about somebody else, not feeling good about me.

And...I know that life does not always afford face-to-face interaction (like when you're paying toll), and it's awesome to pay for the toll or the coffee of the person behind you. It's the perspective of your heart when you do it that matters.

Dr. Kim, I can't thank you enough for your article - it came at just the right time. I have been in a slump for a few weeks as I recover from surgery and unexpected medical issues. I am finally feeling better and that you took the time to share a genuinely beautiful thought made me feel even better. It made me smile.

When I read Susanna's comment, I was disheartened that your kind gesture could be analyed and pulled apart and made to seem selfish. It upset me until I realized she didn't understand your point - in the least. Please do keep doing what you do. It is good for the collective soul.

Thank you so much for all that you do and all that you share.

I think you're splitting hairs. Too many rules! I get your drift but perfectionism can cripple and then there is no kindness at all...."Do the best you can as often as you can." and relax a little.

In a world so full of selfishness and meanspiritednes, I don't much care what the person's motive is towards me when he/she blesses me with a kind act, word, or smile; I suspect that even if one initially blessed someone to make themselves feel better, they eventually thought about the recipient with more kindness and prayers. As a doctoral student studying cognitive-behavioral therapy, I do believe that sometimes the act precludes the feelings; the more acts of decency and goodness we do (no matter the initial motives), the kinder and more tolerant a person we become.

Thanks for the inspiring article. We all need that little reminder sometimes & it really does work!

I really appreciate your sharing what you did today. I sometimes get angry, frustrated or annoyed about stuff, I like your comments about wanting to bust up some dry wall, made me laugh. Sometimes I get annoyed with things and want to throw something. I will certainly try your antidote of doing a good deed, get the focus off myself too. Thanks for sharing (:

Thanks for sharing your story; we all have many kinds of feelings but we can do something about defusing negative situations with small random acts of kindness, we should all try to put it into practice to have the positive energy flowing even when either we bring bad emotions on ourselves or someone just gets on your nerves on is up to us eh?


Dear Dr Kim
Thank you for sharing your uplifting experience with us. I share many of the sentiments you wrote. Sometimes all we need is a good reminder that the angry self is not our true nature. We can get easily lose perspective because we become so involved with our negativity.

A smile to a "stranger" who needs it, a little kindness in whatever form that is appropriate to the circumstance, and not expect anything in return is extremely "releasing".

When I feel good or bad, I say consciously to myself :this, too, will pass.

May all beings be happy and free.
Chrys from Paris

Thank you so much for your sharing. I am new to your mailing and enjoyed your honesty and your ability to review your behavior. I follow a Dao path in my life and see, probably unknowingly, you do also. If humanity could just be more gentle, kind and caring with each other, we could change a lot of things in this world. Thank you for your honest review of yourself and having the humility of sharing the sharp corners of the darker side of your human heart. The truth does set us free.
May you have an uplifting day as you touch so many people. Rhona Winchell

I have been receiving your newsletter now for about three months. I look forward to stopping during the day and reading something thats both motivational as well as mentally and physically inspiring. This is what your newsletters do for me. I am so appreciative that you take the time to share with us. We all need to find ways of lifting those spirits every now and then and need to be reminded of simple ways to of doing this.

Thanks again and may you and your family continue to be blessed as you bless others.


When we take responsibility for our own happiness and joy, we impart the same to others. The energy we carry that surrounds us and that we all share is the loving, giving, healthy energy- it could also be your negative energy. So when we take the time to do something for someone else because it makes us feel better, I believe it is an excellent and worthwhile thing to do. When we are in our source and connected to our inner being and happiness we are in the best place to give the same to all of those around us, no matter what it is. Remember only 10 percent of our communication is verbal.... Its great to know that you can recognize it and instead of trying to figure out why your feeling lousy just change the thought into something positive and make a good feeling step in the right direction, and not feed on the negativity. Is it really worth knowing why you are angry, when that is such a downward spiral... instead change the thought and change the frequency and find yourself uplifted.... Thank you..

When you mentioned about the bank, that took me back to my banking days. I had some not-so-great moments on the teller line. One memorable one involved a customer who came in and wanted to withdraw some money from his account. He didn't know his account number, had no cheques, no ATM card, and didn't want to show me any ID. I was filling in at this branch and didn't know all of the regular customers, so asked one who was at lunch if she knew this man. Nope.

I told him i was sorry i couldn't help him, but i couldn't verify who he was, so i couldn't give him any money. His face grew very red, and he screamed at me at the top of his voice. Called me names and yelled, "I have forty thousand dollars with this bank, and i ought to be able to withdraw the money when i need it!"

I thought, "Well, if you have that much money, you'd certainly be glad to know we aren't just giving it out willy-nilly, but trying to make sure we give it to the right person." I didn't say anything, and he stormed out, pushing the door so hard, it slammed against the brick outside wall.

Another customer was just coming in, an older gentleman i had waited on the day before. I remembered him, and was relieved i didn't have to ask him for ID. He watched the apoplectic man zoom away in his shiny, red convertible, looked back at me, smiled broadly and said, "Now, that's what i like to see! Keeping the customer satisfied!"

We both laughed, and all the negativity in the space vanished.

I have since had a few opportunities to use that line with others in customer service jobs, and it's always brought a smile.

A kind word can go a long way in lifting someone's spirits, as can an act of kindness. Thanks for the reminder!


Thank-You for sharing your storey.
Every person has a special thing that they do to control that negitive funk we sometimes get into. Mine... is yoga, this helps to rid the mind of the negitive junk we store in our heads. Physical activity also helps to get rid of the neg. stuff renting space in our head.
Everday, I practice giving a good deed; action, words, thought to all those that I touch in that day. This makes me feel enlighted, the balance is in what I eat, how I behave emotionally, and how I treat my body phyically. There is not one thing, but the combination of acts that gives way to enlightenment.
It is not the destination in life but the journey we must take that gives us true to thu self. Thank-You Kim

I have found so many useful, helpful, and uplifting articles from Dr. Kim in my e-mail inbox it is difficult to say one is better than the other or one helps more than another. I can say this article about ways to recognize your "bad" day and turn that around with an act of kindness or thoughtfulness toward someone else is one of if not the best. So we come into this act of kindness with an eye toward helping ourselves; what happens once we have followed through on our mission to make someone else's day, is that the other person feels that maybe there are some good, kind people left in the world and we feel better as well. To use a too often used phrase - what a win-win scenario! Thanks Dr. Kim for all the wonderful articles and the fabulous pictures with the recipes!!

There is no doubt in my mind that the God of the Heavens has gifted you with the ability to write, the ability to think and reason and the ability to use good common sense.
Your article impressed me greatly, and I rarely take the time to read such things, as live such a busy life...but the more I read, the more it felt just like me.
You had such a nice way of handling your frustration, and I would like to learn that too.

Thank God for you and your web pages Dr. Kim, you do a fantastic job, and you have helped so many people, including me.

God Bless you and your family with a long and happy life.

Gwendolyn L. Fisher, RN

Wow!! This is one of your best posts ever!! What a good story and so much truth. You have inspired me to do the same, so tomorrow I'm going to look for opportunities to be kind, bless or whatever you wish to call it, other people that cross my path!! By the way, too bad I didn't see this earlier!! I had a rough evening and was really down in the dumps, oh well, it'll still work!!

Agreed... Simply put, there ia no better mental from stress for me than doing a good deed. Great article.

You sure would be a great Christian!!! Sigh!!!

As a Christian who believes the Bible, I am refreshed to read your article that reminds us to love one another. We all can choose, as you mentioned, to act kindly or not. Especially if you are one who's nature has been changed by receiving God's gracious gift of His Son. Since Jesus broke the power of sin, we now can live by the power of the Holy Spirit to love one another.

I know it's harder when we feel lousy, but we can still choose. Thankfully, even when we don't choose to and would rather release those pent up frustrations on others, we do have One we can go to for forgiveness and release, then we can choose to go to the one we violated with an apology. It doesn't take away what we've done to them whether large or small, but at the very least: it validates them when we do apologize, just as doing random or not so random acts of kindness. To bring some balance to apologies: We can't live a lifestyle of abusiveness/neglect and expect an apology to do anything. A lifestyle of abusiveness/ neglect says, "I'm not serious when I apologize. I'm just relieving my guilt." That's not love..

I believe our acts of kindness say, "You are worth are special." We all need this message and I agree; we do all need each other. Since the world is in a constant flow of selfishness and abuse/neglect, the rare light of love counters the lie that abuse and neglect send; that we are not worth anything and we are not special.

And, most importantly, when we choose to act in love, I believe we are reflecting the One who made us. We demonstrate He is there, loves us, and wants a loving relationship with us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Dr. Kim, your story is a very good reminder that we always have a choice on how to react to situations. A matter of attitude, as well. Also, it's the little things we do in life that make a difference. I admire your openness to share your experience. You are an inspiration. Thank you Dr. Kim :)

The ultimate objective or goal has to be one and not many in order to unite and concentrate people's effort to achieve it. The ultimate goal has to be permanent and not changeable in order to achieve stability and cohesiveness in the society. The ultimate goal has to be above materialistic goals because such goals would undoubtedly corrupt it. Neither should it be based on short term goals whereby once they are achieved, others are sought. The ultimate goal which man places for happiness has to be the objective of all objectives.

To respond to your request for more ideas of spreading kindness...
*It's becoming more rare to see specific snail-mail thank you notes when you receive a gift or encouragement, so I find when we send one out, it's very uplifting for the recipient. I try to enclose a coloring picture from my kids, particularly to elderly friends.
*I notice whether anyone else near me is unloading their groceries from their cart, and I offer to bring their cart to the cart return along with mine. This has been particularly appreciated by parents with kids in the car.
*Smile, cheerfully say "Hello!".
*When someone asks you "How are you" instead of replying "Oh, fine", cheerfully reply "TERRIFIC!" It's a self-fulfilling prophecy!
*My grandma was an amazing joke-teller. I'm not so great at remembering jokes, but my kids are. I've taught them a few treasures and they love to make random people smile and laugh with their jokes.
*Take a minute to express gratitude to those who do generally-not-so-much-fun jobs. On a really cold morning, we hung a large "THANK YOU" sign for the snowplow guy. We told the pizza-maker lady "Do you realize you have a job our kids DREAM of having someday?" (It has to be true, and it was).
*Put yourself in someone else's shoes and think about what might make their day. For example, leave a recent widow a Valentine's card from your kids- she probably feels really sad right now.
Just some food for thought and ideas. I'd love to hear other ideas as well! It's true- spread the love, it's contagious! :)

*We live in Georgia, so when someone asks how I am, I try to say "peachy", which usually gets a smile.
*No one holds doors anymore, so both my daughter and I try to race to see who can hold the door for people.
*Our "rule" for tipping service providers is everyone starts at 20% and only goes down if they really screw up. You have to REALLY screw up to get 15%!
*I love the snow plow idea, but we don't get many of those here, we do leave a diet coke for the mail lady every once in a while when it especially hot out. Maybe we'll try a "thank you" on the garbage one day!

Thanks for the ideas!!

I enjoy walking down the street and silently blessing those I pass.

In coin operated telephone booths it's nice to leave someone enough coins for a call.

Using the Buddha Maitreya Shambhala Healing tools I send distant healing to people and situations.

I have been hurting for a few days or months to say...i have been feeling as if my brother has been emotional slipping away from me..farther day by day..and i miss my best friend brother..I cant figure how to fix it..he does not seem to feel the same...he is so busy he does not realize how I feel..sometimes i feel silly but i really feel sad and lonely in a crowd..coz my brother has been my joy my strength...I have a loving husband and a wonderful kid and wonderful parents ,..but i cant express how much my brother means to me..

I realized that may be he is just too busy to accommodate me in his i have to give him his space..which i know may mean not calling him at all...:( I just feel so sad.i cant focus on anything and I snap easily at people who have NO CLUE of whats going thru my heart..I feel bad that my thoughts are affecting other people..this article helped me..i am going to find ways to channel my thoughts and feelings...and i am sure i will find many people with whom i can share my joy and love !

Thanks a lot Sir !

I was recently in M&S shopping with my mom, I happened to notice a lady looking very undecided about a dressing gown. I told her that the colour was great and she would look lovely in it. She shared her anxiety about going into hospital for surgery and was very anxious. From my experience as a nurse and recently had surgery on my Breasts too, I was able to ally some of her fears. We wished each other well and parted. I was waiting at the lift to go to the floor above and a man came up behing me, he had a big wide smile on his face and said if he had a million pounds he would have gived it to me for the help and care I had shown to his wife. I told him it was my pleasure! We all felt blessed and alot happier

I just loved this comment - and your personal reflection on kindness, Dr. Kim!! Made my morning and brought a smile to my face!

Dr. Kim, I would like to share valuable information our family has been learning over the past few months.

My husband has experienced depression and rage all his adult life. Anti-depressants only made it worse. Since we were married almost 12 years ago, we have worked at ways to maintain mental and emotional balance. Things have gotten better as we have improved our overall nutrition, but there were still episodes of one or more days that would throw the whole family off.

A few months ago he realized that whenever he ate meat, with a day or so, he would have a reaction of either rage or depression. It occurred to him that he was picking up the energy of the animal at the time of its death. He decided to stop eating meat and see what happened.

He has been able to stay balanced! Although he loves meat, the relief of being free from the tyranny of unpredictable emotional states has made it worthwhile to become a vegetarian. Further refining the experiment, he discovered that eggs would also throw him off. Then we learned about Temple Grandin, who stated that chickens are the most dissatisfied animals on the planet (her story is truly inspiring), so the egg reaction made sense.

I am not as emotionally sensitive as my husband, but I also cut way back on my meat intake, just out of curiosity, enough so that when I did eat it, a day or so later I would notice a passing feeling of dread or anxiety, a feeling that something bad was going to happen, that would come out of nowhere, and for no discernible reason, and I realized it must, again, be the animals' death energy. I realized that I have felt this at times my whole life but never knew what caused it! What a huge relief to now know, and be able to eliminate meat from my diet, and feel even-keeled once again.

Our 11-year old son was also having some emotional difficulties at school, so we decided to do the experiment with him as well, and he was like a different child - calmer, happier and a joy to be around.

I invite you to consider trying this experiment!

Your in gratitude for all you do,

I work in a casino as a Blackjack dealer and let me tell you..I struggle daily to bring people into a state of play and fun when the moods can be rather dark, as you may know.
Remembering this story always brings me back to a moment of peace. It's about an old man who lost his wife and lived alone for many years until he became blind. Giving up his independence and allowing himself to be transported to a strange place to live he was asked how everything was going. "Couldn't be better!" he said. During the adjustment time, he continued to answer brightly, with a smile, "Oh, wonderful, thank you". When someone asked him "How is it that you are so happy after losing so much?" he replied that when he wakes up every morning the first thing he says to himself is "Today is a good day. I am happy."
So, hey, it is a good day today and I am happy!
Simple magic.

The trick is to contain the resentment and bad feeling so that noone else is hurt by our negativity. If we lose control, and try pulling others into our sorry state, then it becomes too difficult to regain perspective.
I feel anger is like poison that pollutes our system like a drop of ink making the whole water colored. We just have to wait for the harm it creates to abate. In my experience a sound sleep is the best medicine for a bad mood day.

Thanks for such a lovely post. It really helped a lot.

Great article.

My husband knows my favorite candy is York Peppermint patties. One Valentines he hid the whole bag all over the house and with a card said when you find a candy, know I love you. I was finding those candies for a year. The gift that kept on giving and made me smile each time.