English Oxford Living Dictionaries defines kindness as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” For many, kindness comes naturally, for others it is a work in progress. During these challenging times it seems that we have all had an abundance of opportunities to be kind to one another, but have we engaged with those opportunities? Here are some encouraging thoughts to motivate us to be kind:
Kindness starts with being kind to yourself: Ever notice how much better you treat others when you’ve taken care of yourself? It’s like being on the airplane when they say you have to put your mask on first before you help the person next to you.
Lead with compassion, follow with kindness: Everyone has challenges, many hidden from sight. If you knew that your neighbor delivering the curt response to a question or the snarky critique of a project had recently learned of a serious illness in their family, wouldn’t you cut them some slack? When we are compassionate, we are recognizing our shared human condition. Compassion can guide us to acts of kindness.
We feel happier when we act in service to others: A recent study reported on how people felt after performing or observing kind acts every day for seven days. Participants were randomly assigned to carry out at least one more kind act than usual for someone close to them, an acquaintance or stranger, or themselves, or to try to actively observe kind acts. Happiness was measured before and after the seven days of kindness. The researchers found that being kind to ourselves or to anyone else — yes, even a stranger — or actively observing kindness around us boosted happiness.
We become kinder with practice: Aesop, the ancient Greek storyteller, once said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” If random acts of kindness don’t come easily to you, try this challenge: do one small, kind thing each day for someone. Then pay attention to the impact on you. Does it become easier the more you do it? Do you start to notice and act on more opportunities to be kind in your world? Do you start to feel lighter?