“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
We can all weave more kindness into our lives. We can be kinder to ourselves, kinder to others, even kinder to the planet. Kindness is compassion in action. Kindness helps us to be more intentional with our behaviour and our treatment of others. Not only does being kind make those at the end of it feel good, but it assists us to be more patient, present and peaceful which in turn helps with calming our nervous system and stimulating feel-good hormones. What’s not to love about being kind?
Have you ever gifted a random act of kindness to someone? Maybe you let an elderly person ahead of you in the line at the grocery store, gave detailed directions to someone who was lost, brought in your neighbour’s bin or helped find the owner of a lost dog. Acts of kindness don’t have to be grand gestures, in fact, the more subtle and unconscious they are the more likely they will become an extension of who we are. Kindness is a state of being as much as it is an act.
Random Acts of Kindness Day is celebrated on February 17 around the world and is a day to intentionally bring joy to others when they least expect it. It’s a wonderful excuse to spread kindness around your local community and the reward is in the act itself. These gestures can be as simple as allowing someone to go ahead of you in traffic, helping a friend when they are stressed or overwhelmed, lending your belongings, smiling at strangers, volunteering your time to a community project, giving compliments or positive feedback, paying for a stranger’s coffee, or sharing excess produce from your garden with a neighbour.
True kindness should be without expectation of anything in return. However, doing good deeds and putting others ahead of you is a very good way to magnetise kindness back into your own life in unexpected and delightful ways. When we are kind, we inspire others to be kind which creates a ripple effect spreading outwards. We as individuals have much more influence on the world around us than we realise. Imagine the state of the world if each of us chose kindness over conflict.
“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” - Scott Adams
So how exactly do we switch on our heart torch and turn our kindness key?
Not everyone is wired to be empathetic, but putting yourself in someone else’s shoes (even if you don’t necessarily align with their views or opinions) is the first step to understanding how another person might feel. For kindness to come naturally empathy is a trait we should cultivate as it gives us the ability to understand someone else’s situation from their frame of reference.
We are living in an age where we surround ourselves with like-minded people, both in social circles and online. But it is healthy and indeed beneficial for our brains to try and relate to those different to us and process different points of view rather than being in ‘echo chambers’ or self-affirming feedback loops. Empathy makes both sides of our brain work together, with the emotional centre working to perceive the feelings of others while the cognitive centre tries to understand why they feel that way and how we can be supportive.
Moving beyond our own worldview and broadening our perspective is the first step to becoming more empathetic and therefore more compassionate and kinder. Step outside your personal bubble and connect with strangers, new neighbours or people you don’t know very well and show interest in their lives. Learning about how other people live can be insightful and help us to expand our own limited perception of the world. Follow people on social media who have different beliefs and ideologies from your own. Develop your listening skills and really pay attention when someone speaks to you, notice their body language, facial expressions and mood while they speak also as these add richness and depth to their personal story.
Kindness Starts with You
Self-care has become a bit of a buzzword of late but it really just means to make time for yourself. Not in a selfish way, but in a way that is restorative and replenishing. It’s about filling your cup first so you can be the best version of yourself for others. Kindness works this way too. We cannot truly be kind to others if we think unkind thoughts about ourselves and don’t prioritise time or space for ourselves to rest and enjoy the little things in life.
Having empathy and bestowing kindness (not only to others but towards ourselves) is hugely important for all of humanity. It bridges our differences and helps us to find common ground so we can work together as a collective. Being kind strengthens relationships in the workplace, nurtures friendships and fosters close and caring families. On a bigger scale, empathy can cultivate connection and compassion which are both critical to a more ethical and sustainable future for us all. So switch your heart torch on and shine some kindness out into the world. It’s easier than you think and it might just make you feel good too.
Looking for some more ‘kind’spiration?
Here are two TED TALKS on the topic of kindness.
Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and small business owner. She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.