Today is World Kindness Day. In a world where we need a day to encourage people to be kind, there is great value in engaging. Whether you believe this is a brilliant marketing initiative or just plain common sense that should be encouraged and rewarded, does it really matter? As the folks at Nike say, #justdoit.
On an individual basis, we benefit from kindness by having it lift our mood. Giving is even more effective than receiving at alleviating people’s stress. Numerous studies have shown that acts of kindness towards others make us feel happy, less stressed, and more connected with others. Even something as simple as holding a door open can achieve this result.
There is a newly touted practice dubbed “Self Kindness” that is proving to have benefits, too. Most behaviours work best when we start with ourselves, so why not kindness? Psychologists agree that defining our idea of what kindness is to us helps us put it into practice. We can better visualize how we would be kind, how to incorporate it into our habits, when we identify with the benefits we get ourselves.
Once we get the idea of being kind to ourselves, then being kind to others is something we will want to do, “sharing the wealth”, so to speak. This practice pays off by creating a more positive culture in a group. Have you ever noticed how “goodvibes” seem contagious?
If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do. – Mahatma Gandhi
The benefits of being kind are straightforward; the release of oxytocin in our brains triggers physical changes as well as a happy feeling. We can also enjoy:
- less physical tension in the body
- reduced symptoms of depression (i.e. better sleep, less indigestion, fewer headaches)
- slower aging (studies have shown that our DNA responds positively to regular acts of kindness, which may help slow the aging process)
If we are less stressed, feeling more positive and connected with others, then just think how this can translate into a more engaged group of people. Family groups, work groups – everyone can benefit from sharing kindness.
In case you’re thinking I’m suggesting everyone needs to join hands and be in a circle with flowered headbands, don’t get ahead of yourself. This is a simple process. Take a deep breath and read on.
Small things make a big difference. Everyone has heard that before, because it’s true. If you’re not sure, try out these 5 tips on small kindnesses you can implement on a daily basis. Do it for a week and then ask everyone if it made a difference. I’d be interested to hear what responses you get.
- Recognize everyone. This can be as simple as eye contact, or a wave or a “Good morning”. Take a moment out of your day to let people know they matter by showing them you noticed they are present. (BONUS: Try this with strangers and see how much fun you can have – smile at people on the bus or subway, hold a door open for the next person, etc.)
- Listen to hear, then respond. Have you ever had someone ask you how you are, and not even hang around long enough to hear the answer? Take a moment out of your day and listen to people’s replies. Then you can respond appropriately, and show that you care.
- Share a compliment. (and accept them if they are given). Showing people we notice their talents is a great kindness. It’s the best way to encourage them to use those talents more often. (BONUS: If you get a compliment, accept it as an honest effort to recognize you. Don’t disappoint the person – or yourself – by brushing it off.)
- Reach out to someone unlikely. This might be a kind gesture for a street person, or an extra touch for a customer who doesn’t expect it, or a message for a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Get creative in being kind.
- Stop yourself in a frustrating moment and think of being kind. This is mentally tougher but doesn’t take time out of your day. You just have to bend your brain a bit… like smiling instead of yelling at the person who wants to push past you for a seat or a spot on the road.
I hope you’ve been inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read. I look forward to seeing you out there in the world. I’ll look for your smile!