By Angela

Depression, Social Isolation and Kindness

In April 2008, Dr. Wayne Dyer and Ellen Degeneres challenged viewers to participate in a “Month of Doing Good” as a way of helping with depression. According to Dyer, millions of people take anti-depressants to increase their serotonin levels, an important hormone which reduces symptoms of depression, thus increasing a sense of well-being. A person who does something nice for someone else experiences a “feel good” effect from doing a good deed. Studies are showing that doing an act of kindness actually results in a health benefit which can actually be measured in an increase of serotonin. Of further interest, an act of kindness also raises the levels of the recipient, but also anyone who simply witnessed the good deed!

People with TBI often experience depression because their injured brain has difficulty producing adequate levels of necessary brain chemicals including serotonin. While doing good deeds alone will probably not solve the lower levels of serotonin in the brain injured person, it will boost the person’s mood and provide other benefits.

Many people with disabilities feel like society’s throw-aways. Even those who do return to the workforce, it is often in a very different capacity. Many notice they are treated differently than before their brain injury, as well as experiencing a loss of friends and social networks. This can create a vicious cycle of social isolation. While people may in fact treat them differently, their own expectation of being treated badly almost ensures keeping them engaged in this negative cycle.

Engaging in acts of kindness is a way to begin to change the kinds of interactions we receive from others, as well as boosting our serotonin levels. Hard as it may be, sometimes we have to treat others the way we want to be treated. Eventually we find that like energy attracts like energy. Negative people either drop away or become less important to us. Those who remain in our lives, or who have the most influence on lives, are the ones who appreciate being treated kindly and treat us kindly as well.

Random Acts of Kindness

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation offers a multitude of resources, including lists of ideas. Below are some of their suggestions and/or modifications and additions.

Make a commitment to yourself to doing a random act of kindness, once a month or once a week. Then think about if and how this has impacted your relationships with others and your general mood.

I would love to hear about your experiences and will follow this article with Personal Stories of Random Acts of Kindness.

Ideas for Random Acts of Kindness

1. Make some slice and bake cookies. Give them to a neighbor or someone who works in your community. If you have difficulty cooking or baking, tell someone that you want to do something nice for some people and ask them if they will help you.

2. Take some box meals or canned food, even if it’s only a couple of items, to a food bank.

3. Give a flower to someone special in your life. Write a note to them about how, like a flower makes the world a more beautiful place, they make your life a more beautiful place in which to live.

4. Call someone you know is having a rough time. Tell them you care about them and wanted to see how things are going.

5. Volunteer at a hospital, church, retirement center, animal shelter or food pantry.

6. Make a point for a day to give your full attention to someone and do more listening than talking.

7. Make paper hearts that say “Who you are makes a difference to someone’s world.” Slip the hearts under windshield wipers of parked cars.

8. Pay a compliment to someone at least once a day.

9. Call or visit someone who is homebound or a shut in.

10. Be a good neighbor. Take over a treat or stop by to say “Hello.”

11. Select 1 person per month to be a secret pal and do something special for this person (i.e., send a card in the mail, give them a treat, write a special message, leave them a flower and anonymous note).

12. Buy a cold drink for someone you don’t know.

13. Say something nice to everyone you meet today.

14. Give someone the gift of your smile.

15. Hold the door open for someone.

16. Help someone get something that they’ve dropped or that is out of reach.

17. Write a note of appreciation and give a flower or special treat to someone important to you such as a family member, friend, therapist, doctor, case worker, etc.

18. Give a hug to a friend or loved one.

19. Tell your child, friend or significant other why you love them.

20. Write a note to your mother or father and tell them why they are special.

21. Give someone an encouraging pat on the back.

22. Write a thank-you not to a mentor or someone who has influenced your life in a positive way.

23. Give blood.

24. Visit a retirement center with smiles and friendly conversation for someone who doesn’t have family nearby.

25. Plant a pot of flowers or flower seeds for a neighbor or friend.

26. Leave a treat or handmade note of thanks for your mail carrier.

27. Tell your therapist, case manager or advocate how much you appreciate them.

28. Tell a bus or handicap transportation driver how much you appreciate their driving.

29. As you go about your day, pick up litter you see and throw it away.

30. While in the store next to the cut flowers, give a child $2 to buy a flower for their mother.

31. Offer to return a shopping cart to the store for someone loading a car.

32. Write a letter of thanks to a store employee who did something that was helpful to you. Ask to speak to the manager and give them a copy of the letter to put in the employee’s personnel file.

33. Let the person behind you in the grocery store go ahead of you in line.

34. Send a letter to a former teacher letting them know the difference they made in your life.

35. Clean out your closet and donate some clothes to a charitable organization.

36. Buy a children’s book and donate it to a day care, preschool or school.

37. Offer to clean a friend’s windows and mirrors.

38. Offer to rake leaves for a neighbor.

39. Roll a neighbor’s garbage cans back up the driveway at the end of trash day.

40. Smile and say “Hello” to someone you don’t know.

41. When you are waiting for service at the deli counter, trade “ticket numbers” with someone in a hurry.

42. Put a flower on a neighbor’s porch.

43. Help someone who is struggling with bags.

44. Compliment a stranger about something they are wearing.

45. Give your place in line at the grocery store to another person, such as someone in a hurry or a parent with restless little children.

46. Hold the door of the elevator or bus for someone rushing to catch it.

47. Tape coins to a pay telephone with a note saying that anyone who needs it can use it.

48. After reading or listening to a book you enjoyed, send a note of appreciation to the author.

49. Pay for an extra cup of coffee with an order and ask the cashier to give it to the next person who orders it.

50. Send a card to a lonely or sad person.

51. Place a sticker on your window, alerting firefighters to the number and types of pets inside your home.

52. Recycle all aluminum, plastic, newspapers and papers.

53. Put an extra quarter in someone’s parking meter.

54. Buy and place stickers on a window that birds run into.

55. Share a joke or funny story with a person.

56. Set out a bird feeder.

57. Grow herbs and offer them to your neighbors along with some recipe ideas that require fresh herbs.

58. Design and/or send holiday cards to people in the military, homeless shelters or nursing homes.


The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

The Ellen Degeneres Show – Join Ellen and Dr. Wayne Dyer in Their ‘Month of Doing Good’ Challenge April 22, 2008; October 3, 2008


Click here for printable Acts of Kindness handout





© Angela Cramer, 2008

Clipart and Graphics are property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008

Tags: TBI, traumatic brain injury, acquired brain injury, post concussion syndrome, depression, kindness, social isolation, dr. wayne dyer, ellen degeneres show, random acts of kindness, serotonin


5 Responses to “Depression, Social Isolation & Kindness”

  1. September 10, 2009 at 7:51 am

    What a great article! Thank you for writing this. I am new to blogging and really don’t know what I’m doing. I write and click publish but at times have no clue as to how I published it or where it went.
    I like this article even though it made me cry. I come from a decent family but instead of them doing random or any other acts of kindness when I became disabled, I was told by my brother that I was worthless, that all I do is suck air and reminded that I only get sicker and sicker as time goes by.
    My sister gives me hand-me-down clothes sometimes but she doesn’t call when I am really sick and frankly, I’d prefer a phone call. I have two closets full of clothes and am too sick to go anywhere to wear them.
    Sometimes it is acts of kindness from total strangers that can turn a dark day into a ray of hope for me. I live a very isolated life. My adult son and I both have disabilities. he has a serious brain disorder and I have severe depression and fibromyalgia. My two dogs keep me going.
    Anyway, thanks again for writing. I will visit your site again. Have a nice day!


    • September 10, 2009 at 10:01 am

      Dear Dogkisses,

      Thank you so much for writing….that was an act of kindness on your part, letting me know that I still have something of value to offer others. Isn’t it strange how we receive much more kindness from total strangers? My family has had little contact with me. In a way I’m glad that none of them has the room or ability to take me in….my elderly father is in poor health, my sister who has resented me over the years is probably in late stages of alcoholism, my children are states away struggling to make it through college and pay off enormous school loans. I don’t want to be a burden to them and at the same time I don’t deserve to be emotionally abused.

      Although I’ve been found disabled by the Social Security Administration and receive SSI and Medicare, the School retirement system I paid into has terminated my disability pension. My home is now in foreclosure and I don’t know where I or my pets will end up. Don’t know what I would do without my dog, cat and birdie kisses…they are so therapeutic!

      Take care and thanks again for writing.


      • September 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm

        Hi Angela,
        Just wanted to say thanks and enjoyed reading your comment. It is horrible that your house is in foreclosure. I hope that works out somehow. I know this probably doesn’t sound too optimistic but have you applied for Section-8 housing assistance? If you were forced to rent then it sounds like you would qualify. A person who receives Section-8 benefits is allowed to go out into the community and find an affordable rental and the Federal government will send the landlord a check for the rent. Sometimes the tenant pays a portion of the rent too. It is a thought and also, every county is different, so sometimes it takes two years just to be on a waiting list. Most counties consider people who receive Disability income and who are either homeless or paying more than 50% of their income towards rent and utilities, a high priority status and will help sooner.
        Good luck and maybe somehow you will not lose your home.

      • September 10, 2009 at 5:58 pm

        Hi Dogkisses,

        Thank you for the information. I’m praying for a miracle that will allow me to keep my home, but am also trying to be proactive just in case.

        I don’t know about these kinds of things, so your information is very helpful. I am fortunate to have a case manager who works with people with disabilities. She is providing a meeting place and we have asked a group of friends and neighbors if they would attend. We will be brainstorming ideas for “what if.”

        It is a pretty sad statement about our country that someone can hit you while you’re stopped in traffic and the insurance company can get off without being required to pay for my medical bills and future costs, and then the school system can get away without paying me a disability pension when my treating doctors and the Social Security Administration have deemed me disabled. All because I was in the wrong place at the right time. It all seems to be about passing the buck.

        I’m ready for some justice and good luck for a change I would love to see a community where people like us could live…perhaps a care giver’s home who provides assistance to several independent living units with a community/recreation center on site, some handicapped accessible trails, gardens, and companion pets are also allowed and welcomed. A place where all residents are valued and appreciated for having something worthwhile to contribute to the community. I’ll just keep dreaming and hoping that for now I can keep my home until this place is built.


      • September 10, 2009 at 8:01 pm

        Wow. I had to go ahead and reply even though I must get outside for a bit with my doggies. Get some of that fresh air.
        I too want a place like you described. I would like to start a residential living place, somewhat self-sustainable, such as with a garden and some egg-laying chickens! I’d like to have a place for unique individuals to belong, because a sense of belonging is important. A place where people could learn some life skills and yes, definitely get some help!
        I look forward to hearing from you again and I know it is really about passing the buck, unfortunately.
        Still– I wish you much luck and many blessings.

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