The holidays are “the most wonderful time of year,” where we find ourselves busy with planning, cooking, shopping, decorating and many other happy activities aimed to create joy in our lives and the lives of people around us.

But the holidays are also a stressful, and even sad, time of year for many people because of things like the loss of a loved one or job, or simply because they are alone and have no one to spend these special days with.

While it is indeed wonderful to give gifts, bought from stores and wrapped in lovely paper with bows, it is even more wonderful to give of yourself to the people around you – those you know and do not know. Small acts of kindness are something we should make an effort to do all year round… but especially this time of year, when they often prove to be the best gifts of all.

Here is a short list of things you can do to increase joy in someone else’s life, and your own, through small acts of kindness:

  • Pay a compliment to a complete stranger.
  • Hold the door for the person walking through it behind you.
  • If you see someone drop something – be it a stack of papers or a pen they were carrying – help them pick it up.
  • Likewise, if you see someone with a lot to carry, offer to help.
  • Say “bless you” to someone when they sneeze, even if you don’t know that person.
  • Let someone with fewer items than you have go ahead of you in line at the grocery store.
  • Offer your seat on the train, bus or subway to an elderly person, child or pregnant woman.
  • Put some money toward the order of the person behind you in the drive-thru at Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s or a similar establishment.
  • Make or bring a meal to someone who may be going through a tough time or may just need a helping hand.
  • Strike up a conversation or exchange some pleasant words with the store clerk, toll booth attendant, waiter or anyone else that has a job in which they deal with a lot of people during their work day.
  • Donate your time, or a few dollars, to a worthy cause.
  • Thank someone in your life for how they have positively affected you, even if it means thanking them for something they did ten years ago.

Try some of these out the next time you interact with a friend, relative or complete stranger, and I guarantee you will feel the joy of your effort and see the result of it in the other person’s smile.