New Calgary Public Library campaign encourages random acts of kindness

New campaign dubbed Social Snacking hopes to spread awareness about how micro-moments with strangers helps mental health

By Krista Sylvester | November 29, 2021 |9:00 pm

The newly launched Social Snacking campaign is encouraging Calgarians to commit small acts of kindness, which are good for the mental health of both the giver and reciever.

Photo: Shutterstock

It’s a great day to offer your seat to someone on the bus, make conversation with your cashier, or chat up a stranger at the dog park. 

These micro-moments aren’t just good for the community, they also change individual brain chemistry for the better. 

That’s why the Calgary Public Library has teamed up with the Council of Champions for Children and Youth, led by the United Way of Calgary, to launch the ‘Social Snacking’ campaign.

“The last 20 months have been incredibly challenging and isolating for so many of us,” explains Jeff Gray, co-chair of the Council of Champions and executive director of Antyx Community Arts. 

“The Social Snacking campaign was developed to extend the reach of community supports and show people that they have the power to help their community while supporting their own well-being.”

Wait — what’s ‘Social Snacking’ anyways? 

The micro-moments encouraged by the Social Snacking campaign can help make a difference by reducing stress hormones and releasing feel-good hormones.

A recent City of Calgary survey noted that 80 per cent of Calgarians say the pandemic is a threat to their mental health, with 36 per cent saying the threat is major. 

Actions as simple as saying hello to a neighbour or holding the door for someone are more than just acts of kindness, according to Calgary Public Library director of communications Mary Kapusta. 

“What’s really interesting about Social Snacking is it’s these really simple, quick ways that you can have a big impact on people. It just creates a more connected, nurturing community,” Kapusta says. 

Giving — and receiving — a positive jolt to your mental health 

Not only do these micro-moments impact the person you’re showing kindness to, but you also get a jolt of positivity to your mental health. 

Dr. Suzanne Tough is a professor with the Departments of Pediatrics and Community Health Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary. She co-led the research behind the Social Snacking campaign. 

Tough says these small and simple acts have been shown to change brain chemistry for the better.

“While it might feel like there’s not much we can do as a community right now, small, brief, and informal interactions really make a difference,” she says. 

“Everyone’s brains feel better because the interaction reduces stress hormones and releases feel-good hormones, like oxytocin,” Tough says.

What is the library’s role? 

The new public awareness campaign encouraging Calgarians to practice daily acts of kindness is a natural fit for the Calgary Public Library, says CEO Sarah Meilleur. 

“Libraries play a critical role in both creating community and supporting mental wellness, so we are incredibly proud to be able to spread the word,” she says, adding they plan to spread awareness by leading by example. 

“We will be encouraging our employees to be social snackers and we look forward to seeing the movement grow.”  

Learn more about the movement. 

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Krista Sylvester

Managing Editor at Calgary Citizen

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