A few years ago, I took a social psychology course on Coursera.

One of the assignments that I thought was very interesting was called a day of compassion. You were supposed to do as many compassionate things as you could on that day and then later write an essay about them. You could do things as small as smiling to a stranger, or holding a door open for them. Everything counted, but one thing you couldn’t do is tell anybody about the assignment until after it was over. Many people did much bigger things as well, and I remember being quite impressed and inspired when I read their essays as part of the peer grading process.

For many students, this was a transformational experience. The assignment lasted only one day, but for me and many others, it produced a lasting effect. Being compassionate and giving feels good, especially if you’re able to see the smile on people’s faces. It feels deep and meaningful.

There’s really no reason not to reuse this concept for other prosocial and other useful behaviors as well. For example, you could pick a date on the calendar and make it the day of empathy. Or day of positivity. Or day of contentment. Or day when you give others your undivided attention. You get the point.

It’s only one day, which is not intimidating, and it can be a wonderful learning experience.