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9 Wonderful Acts of Kindness

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Even when the news all seems to negative, it's nice to remind ourselves from time to time that there are plenty of people doing good in the world. For World Kindness Day, here are a few acts—some big, some small—that all make more than just the recipient feel the love.

1. THE SECURITY GUARD WHO MAKES KIDS FEEL EXTRA SPECIAL.

When he retired after 35 years in the German navy, Freddie Wieczorek started to go a bit stir crazy. He and his wife had moved to Florida, so he decided to get a part-time job at Walt Disney World as a security guard. But he went above and beyond making sure guests' days are safe and enjoyable: When he isn’t too busy, he asks costumed children for their autographs.

While it seems like such a small gesture, it makes the days of all the tiny princesses and pirates, many of whom think he has mistaken them for the "real" characters. "Every time I see a princess leaving from that signature or when I just tell them, 'You look so pretty,' I see them skipping. Then I know I just made their day," Wieczorek told Today in 2012. "And the pirates, the same thing. When they 'Awwwr,' it’s very special."

2. THE MAN WHO GAVE UP HIS DREAM OF WALKING TO HELP A CHILD.

Following a biking accident, Welshman Dan Black was paralyzed from the chest down at age 22. He spent four years raising £22,000 in the hopes that a future stem-cell treatment might help him walk again one day. But then his mom showed him a newspaper article on a 5-year-old boy who lived nearby with cerebral palsy whose family was trying to raise £60,000 for an operation that would let him walk unaided for the first time. Despite having what his mother called a "horrendous" quality of life, Black decided the boy, Brecon Vaughan, needed the money more than him and donated every penny. That, plus the news his generosity generated, helped them reach the goal within days. Brecon soon underwent the surgery, and within a year had ditched his walker. Within two years he was walking to school on his own and running along with his classmates.

3. THE TOWN THAT RALLIED WHEN NO ONE CAME TO A CHILD'S BIRTHDAY PARTY.

Last year, kindergartener Glenn Buratti invited all 16 of his classmates to his birthday party, and not a single one showed up. According to his mother, when Glenn realized no one was coming, he was devastated and tried to hide his tears. So like many upset moms do in that situation, Ashlee Buratti took to a community-based Facebook page. Within an hour, her son had a birthday party, all thanks to strangers.

Half a dozen families stopped by, some with presents. The sheriff’s department sent a helicopter to do a flyby. Later in the week they sent over the full arsenal: police cars, fire trucks, a SWAT van, and a canine unit. His mother said that despite having autism and some social anxiety, Glenn’s smile just kept getting bigger and bigger.

4. THE GREEK CAFE THAT HOUSES STRAY DOGS AT NIGHT.

The Hott Spott café on the island of Lesbos might be a cool hangout for humans until 3 a.m. each night, but after that it is a warm place for stray dogs to sleep. Ever since Greece was hit by their debt crisis, people have been abandoning dogs they can no longer afford. It has gotten so bad that animal charities estimated there were more than a million stray dogs in the country. Last winter, an assistant sociology professor took a photo of some dogs curled up on the café’s benches that went viral, and said that since the refugee crisis, it seemed like people had been trying to find ways to help the less fortunate, including cold puppies who might otherwise freeze on the streets.

5. THE TEENAGER WHO USED EXTREME COUPONING TO DONATE TO A HOMELESS SHELTER.

Sixteen-year-old Jordon Cox decided to try and get a huge Christmas meal for as little as possible. But not for his family: He donated it all to a homeless shelter. In the end, he managed to get £572.16 worth of food from a British supermarket … for only four pence.

Part of this was down to writing food manufacturers directly and telling them about his mission; many of them sent him vouchers. But the other part was possible thanks to his spending half an hour each day searching online and through mailers for great deals—i.e. "extreme couponing." While normally he does it to save money on his and his mom’s weekly shop, at the holidays he wanted to help those less fortunate.

6. THE STRANGERS WHO RAISED THOUSANDS FOR A MAN WHO COMMUTED 21 MILES EACH DAY—ON FOOT.

James Robertson’s Detroit neighborhood didn’t have bus services all the way to his factory job, so he found himself walking eight miles there and 13 miles home, five days a week. Some nights he would only get two hours of sleep. But when the 56-year-old's story was highlighted in the city newspaper, donations started pouring in.

Three GoFundMe campaigns raised a total of $33,000 within hours. A car dealership offered him the choice between two newer vehicles, and other people offered bikes, bus tickets, and even to drive him to work themselves. Needless to say, Robertson was completely overwhelmed by the generosity. But he still urged Detroit to consider a 24/7 bus service, because he knows he’s not the only person in that position.

7. THE WOMAN WHO TURNED HER HOME INTO A HOSPICE FOR TERMINALLY ILL CATS.

Peruvian nurse Maria Torero, not content with helping the sick at her day job, turned her eight-room home into a hospice for cats with leukemia. And not just two or three cats—for years, she has regularly had up to 175 at a time. She has stray cats tested, and will only bring home the adult ones who already have leukemia, since the disease can be spread to healthy cats. Her house is covered in food bowls and litter trays, as well as beds so they can be comfortable. Torero spends roughly $1500 a month (from donations and out of her own pocket) on food and medicine for her feline patients, and she even knits them sweaters. But she says that the best gift she can give them is love and respect during their lives.

8. THOUSANDS TURN OUT TO FULFILL CHRISTMAS WISH OF A GIRL WITH CANCER.

In 2013, 8-year-old Delaney Brown was diagnosed with leukemia in May, and by December, doctors were only giving her days to live. While she had already received donations to pay for medical expenses and a video chat with Taylor Swift, she knew what she really wanted as one last Christmas wish: to hear live carolers outside her house. So her parents posted it to social media. Instead of just a few people, an estimated 6000 to 8000 turned up, allowing Delaney to hear them sing "Frosty the Snowman" and "Jingle Bells" even though she was too sick to come to the window. She posted a picture on Facebook saying, "I can hear you now!!! Love you!"

Delaney died just a few days later, on Christmas morning.

9. THE UGANDAN WOMEN WHO DONATED TO KATRINA VICTIMS.

Despite only earning $1.20 a day, a group of women in Uganda got together and donated $900 to the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Because the group had selflessly donated to the victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia the year before, local nurse Rose Busingye didn’t want to ask them for money again, instead just asking that they pray for those affected. But to her surprise, 200 women donated money not just from their day jobs breaking rocks into gravel, but from selling things like bananas, necklaces, and chairs. The money all went to a Catholic aid organization in the United States.

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Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

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