There are so many easy (and free!) ways to make someone feel loved.
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It's been almost two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and because of it, cases of depression and anxiety have nearly tripled since this time last year. With new variants and cases rising again, there could be no better time to reach out to your friends, family members, and even strangers to bring a little joy to their day—and luckily, we've found the perfect opportunity. 

February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness Day, which means we'll be spending the day doing (you guessed it!) random acts of kindness. The holiday was started by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, which was founded in 1995. 

The idea is simple: Spend the day doing small acts (like buying a stranger's coffee or paying all the parking meters downtown) to help make someone's day brighter. If you need inspiration for how to spend the day, here are a few of our favorite ideas.

woman writing letter
Credit: hedidwhat/Getty Images

1. Pay for a Stranger's Coffee 

I've been grabbing coffee almost exclusively via drive-through during the pandemic, which is not only safer but also provides the perfect opportunity to make a stranger's day. Next time you pull up to the pick-up window, ask if you can pay for the car behind you as well. And don't forget to tip your barista!

2. Leave Knit Scarves Around Town

While it is technically almost spring, many parts of the country are still experiencing snowstorms and polar vortex-level cold fronts. If you've picked up knitting or crochet as a quarantine hobby, use your skills to knit hats, scarves, mittens, and other cold-weather essentials. When you have a few done, tie them to light posts or leave them at bus stops for those in need. 

3. Drop Off Supplies at a Shelter

If you don't feel comfortable volunteering in person at a local shelter, there are still plenty of ways to help out. Call your local food bank, animal shelter, or other local nonprofit organization and ask what their biggest needs are. Then place a grocery pick-up order and arrange a time to drop off the supplies. 

4. Send a Sweet Text

The simplest acts of kindness don't require a lot of time (or money). Make a list of 5-10 people you haven't reached out to in a while, and send them each a personalized text letting them know you're thinking of them. You never know who may require a few words of encouragement. 

5. Clean Up a Local Park 

If you live in an area with warmer weather, take your act of kindness outside! Grab a pair of gloves and a few trash bags and spend the afternoon cleaning up local parks or recreational areas. 

6. Write a Letter to a Stranger  

One of the easiest ways to impact someone on this holiday is to sign up to write letters to strangers. The organization More Love Letters provides new names and addresses each month, so you can write a personalized note to individuals who have been identified as needing a bit of extra encouragement. The best part is that once you sign up, you'll receive a new list on the first of every month, so you can continue making a difference all year long. 

7. Donate Books to Your Local Library 

A cold winter afternoon is a perfect time to go through your stash of books and sort out the ones you don't need anymore. Once you have a good-sized stack, call your local library and arrange a time to drop off the books for someone else to enjoy. 

8. Send Flowers to a Friend

You don't need an excuse to send flowers to a friend—or yourself! Send a surprise bouquet to your long-distance bestie, or pick up an extra grocery store bouquet next time you're running errands and drop it off in person.

9. Offer to Make a Grocery Run

While many of us have our grocery pick-up routine down to a science, it can still be a stressful ordeal for older seniors or other homebound individuals—especially if they don't feel comfortable going into the store. If you know anyone who could benefit from a no-contact grocery run, call and ask what you can pick up for them, then coordinate a time to drop it on their doorstep. Don't forget to wear a mask! 

10. Buy Supplies for a Local Teacher 

Whether they're teaching virtually or in person, many teachers are struggling with the changes that have come with the pandemic. Many of them have had to provide two sets of materials: One to use at home on virtual days, and one to use in the classroom. And oftentimes, these materials come out of a teacher's pocket. The website Donors Choose can help you find registered teachers in your area—you'll be able to order supplies from their classroom or donate funds for them to purchase their materials. 

11. Cook Dinner for a Friend

If you know someone who works long hours or is extra busy this season, offer to take something off their to-do list by cooking dinner for their family! Coordinate ahead of time to find a day and time that works for drop-off, and be sure to ask ahead about any allergies or sensitivities. Our casserole recipes are all great options because they can be easily baked in a single-use foil pan (so you don't have to coordinate getting your dishes back!) and many of them freeze well if there are leftovers.

12. Clear a Neighbor's Walkway 

With colder weather on the way, we expect to be shoveling snow a few more times before spring arrives. As you head out to clear your walkways or sprinkle ice melt, consider shoveling the sidewalk down your street or clearing a path for kids getting off the school bus in your neighborhood. 

13. Make a Kindness Calendar

Our acts of kindness Advent calendar is always a hit at the holidays, but it's not just limited to Christmastime! Turn Random Acts of Kindness Day into a month-long celebration with this DIY countdown calendar! Simply make it 28 days (the number of days in February) rather than the traditional 25.

14. Write Notes to Seniors

As cases continue to rise, senior living facilities across the country are limiting visitors again. Contact your local senior care center and ask for a list of residents who could use a cheerful note, then spend an afternoon writing notes or drawing pictures with your kids. Then, mail or drop them off.

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