We could all use a smile from a stranger these days.

In fact, according to SCL Health:

When you smile, your brain releases tiny molecules called neuropeptides to help fight off stress. Then other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins come into play too. The endorphins act as a mild pain reliever, whereas the serotonin is an antidepressant. One study even suggests that smiling can help us recover faster from stress and reduce our heart rate.

With that in mind, going out of your way to help someone smile seems like quite an act of community service.

But how do you bring a smile to someone’s face? That’s where random acts of kindness come in.

Here are 9 ways you can make someone smile–and make yourself feel good in the process!

1. Literally just say hello

As funny as the Progressive commercial is where the seminar instructor says, “The waiter doesn’t need to know your name,” sometimes it’s nice to make that personal connection.

They probably don’t care about your name, but I’ve seen servers who seem touched and genuinely surprised when I ask how they are.

Sometimes, just waving at someone or saying hello is enough to remind them that they’re not alone, they’re not here just to serve you, they’re not here just to get yelled at by the guy who wanted something they couldn’t give.

So make that personal connection, and you just might make someone’s day.

Image credit: Mayank Baranwal via Unsplash

2. Be the office snack fairy

It’s no secret that the office-shtick can get pretty dull.

Same old work, same old breaks, same old snacks in the vending machine.

You will immediately have more friends if you surprise your coworkers with a treat for National Donut Day.

And it doesn’t have to be sweet treats. People love free food. (Maybe not spinach.)

Just make sure that if you’re bringing them nice treats you’re not a total goblin the rest of the time, or they might not trust the snacks you suddenly bestow!

Image credit: Devon Divine via Unsplash

3. Think of the children

It honestly doesn’t take much to make kids happy.

Couple crayons, a pad of paper or a coloring sheet–restaurants figured it out years ago.

Reader’s Digest points out that such items can be donated to local police stations.

When the police are called to a home where there are children, one officer can engage the kids while the other handles the situation. This is a great way to calm and distract children during what can be a very frightening experience.

I never would have thought of this, but it seems like a great way to help a kid in need.

Image credit: Lucas Alexander via Unsplash

4. Help out a selfie-taker

It’s one thing when you’re a tourist yourself.

You and a stranger are standing there taking the same picture of the same thing.

You offer to take their picture for them, they offer to take yours next.

But you can also make someone’s day by being the friendly local.

When you see a tourist trying to take a selfie, if you have the time to stop and offer to take their picture for them, it can really make a difference in their experience of your city.

Image credit: Erik McLean via Unsplash

5. Buy a lottery ticket – and give it away!

Half the fun of a lottery ticket is the game, right?

Whether it’s a scratch off or a big prize, the fun is in the possibility and what it might represent.

They’re not expensive, but everyone loves to talk about what they would do if they won, even if they never play.

Why not buy one and just *poof* – give it away?

Maybe your good karma will return to you in unexpected ways.

Image credit: Emiliano Vittoriosi via Unsplash

6. Check on the elderly

Maybe it’s a friend, a neighbor, or a family member.

Maybe they’re shut in most of the time with no one to talk to, or they just need a hand around the house.

Whatever the reason, the elderly are often forgotten as we get busy and go about our lives.

Time speeds up for us, because we have 1001 things to do: work, kids, walk the dog, make the dinner, prep for the meeting, fold the laundry, wash the dishes, rinse, repeat.

But sometimes after retirement, especially if you’re on your own, time can start to slow down and feel endless, even as the days blur together.

So give them a call. Write them a letter. Drop by with treats.

Just let them know they’re not forgotten.

Image credit: Nick Karvounis via Unsplash

7. Help a friend who needs self-care

It’s hard to remember to slow down and unwind.

Sometimes, if you can even find the time, it’s hard to give yourself permission.

But it’s EASY to remind other people and give other people permission.

When you can see what a friend needs, remind them that it’s okay.

Whether that’s helping them remember to take a deep breath and feel their feelings when they’re stressing out, suggesting a book to read, inviting them on a walk, or even offering to take their kids off their hands for long enough for them to do their errands in peace…

People generally know what they need, but they’re hesitant to ask for it–or allow themselves to have it.

Reminding someone that it’s okay to take time for themselves can be exactly what they need.

Image credit: Toa Heftiba via Unsplash

8. MAKE your friend practice self-care

We’ve all been feeling the distance lately.

It’s hard when the ones you love are far away.

Never forgotten, but not always front of mind–sometimes we need to step back and think about them, and find a way to make sure that they know that we are.

You could send them a gift card for coffee, or mail them a nice letter.

Did you know that you can actually have SOUP delivered these days?

There are lots of ways to show someone you care.

Image credit: Natural Chef Carolyn Nicholas via Unsplash

9. Leave some coins behind

Ever been at the laundromat and realized you were short on quarters?

Or the vending machine ate your last dollar and you have a major case of the afternoon hangries?

Or how about that person who blows out their tire at midnight coming home from the airport, and they need quarters for the air pump for the spare? (Yes, I’ve been that person.)

Leaving a roll of quarters, or even just a dollar’s worth of change, with a note that they’re free could really help a person out of a jam.

Image credit: Matthew Lancaster via Unsplash

Well I’m sold. Those are all great ways to make someone smile, and feel like you’re making the world a little better.

What’s your favorite random act of kindness? Drop it in the comments.