What brightens your day?

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
June 06, 2012, 10:18 AM GMT+0

It's the simple things: 53% Britons say someone 'smiling at them', 52% 'a hug', 44% 'having a chat'

It's the simple things that brighten our day, according to our poll on acts of kindness for helpline charity Samaritans.

Over half of respondents said that their day had been brightened in the past year by someone smiling at them, someone giving them a hug or paying them a compliment, while almost as many said that someone saying 'good morning' to them, having time to chat – and perhaps more importantly – having time to actually listen, had improved their day.

Others welcomed someone making them a cup of tea, cooking for them, holding open a door, or someone giving up a seat on public transport.

  • 53% said someone 'smiling at me' had brightened their day in the past year
  • 52% said the same about someone 'giving me a hug', while 52% also said a compliment had made their day that bit better
  • 46% thought that someone remembering their birthday had brightened their day over the past 12 months
  • 44% apiece said someone saying 'Good morning to me', 'having time to chat' or 'listening to me'
  • 42% were happy someone had made them a cup of tea, while a similar 41% chose a time someone cooked for them
  • 40% said someone 'asking how I was feeling when I seemed down' had brightened their day, while 39% though someone 'opening the door' for me, and 37% 'sending me a card' had done the trick
  • Other popular options included 'letting me skip the queue' (23%), 'giving me flowers' (22%), 'making me a cake' (19%), 'giving me directions when I was lost' (16%)
  • 9% remembered when someone 'giving them their seat on the tube/train/bus' had brightened their day

Doing good for others

'Small acts of kindness' is a common principle in which people try and do good deeds for others throughout the day. And while the person who receives the kindness clearly benefits, as the poll shows, another perhaps less-obvious advantage is that the person doing the kindness also feels better.

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and prolific 'happiness' blogger, is a strong proponent of the idea that 'being loving', 'encouraging others' and 'talking to strangers' improves your own contentment, while Action for Happiness, a UK-based 'movement for positive social change', set up by prominent figures including LSE professor Lord Richard Layard (author of Happiness: Lessons from a New Science), also lists 'doing things for others' and 'connecting with people' as two of its '10 keys to happier living'.

National Volunteers' Week

Our poll results, for the charity Samaritans, have been released to highlight the annual 'National Volunteers' Week', which runs from 1st-7th June this year.

Relying greatly on donations and on its team of volunteers, Samaritans helps people struggling with problems and, through email, phone, text and face-to-face, gives people across the UK a confidential and non-judgemental person to talk to if they wish.

In response to our poll, Chair of Samaritans Stephen Hoddell reiterated the value of the charity's volunteers, saying: 'Every year our volunteers give uncountable hours of their time to helping people struggling to cope, and without them we would not be able to answer millions of calls we receive every year. Thank you to each and every Samaritan.'

See the survey details and full results here