Kindness is being compassionate, thoughtful, considerate, and caring- and is a valuable tool in our ‘living life’ toolboxes.
Kindness will create a healthier you; a healthier and happier family unit and you will gain more smiles, laughs and thankyous from those around you than you ever thought possible. You will stop expecting and start participating in being the best you can be. Who wouldn’t want a bit more of that?
I have practised kindness for many years and have found similar results that numerous scientific studies have shown – that acts of kindness result in significant health benefits, both physical and mental. For instance –
- “Helping” contributes to the maintenance of good health, and it can diminish the effect of diseases and disorders serious and minor, psychological and physical.
- A rush of euphoria, followed by a longer period of calm, after performing a kind act is often referred to as a “helper’s high,” involving physical sensations and the release of the body’s natural painkillers, the endorphins. This initial rush is then followed by a longer-lasting period of improved emotional well-being.
- Stress-related health problems improve after performing kind acts. “Helping” reverses feelings of depression, supplies social contact, and decreases feelings of hostility and isolation that can cause stress, overeating, ulcers, etc. A drop in stress may decrease the constriction within the lungs that leads to asthma attacks.
- “Helping” can enhance feelings of joyfulness, emotional resilience, and vigour, and can reduce the unhealthy sense of isolation.
- A decrease in both the intensity and the awareness of physical pain can occur.
- The health benefits and sense of well-being return for hours or even days whenever the helping act is remembered.
- An increased sense of self-worth, greater happiness, and optimism, as well as a decrease in feelings of helplessness and depression, is achieved.
- Once a “connection” is established with someone – a relationship of friendship, love, or some sort of positive bonding- we feel emotions that can strengthen the immune system.
- Adopting an altruistic lifestyle is a critical component of mental health.
- The practice of caring for strangers translates to immense immune and healing benefits.
- The beneficial effects of increased production of serotonin and oxytocin.
There have been many moments in my life where kindness from others has saved the day for me. I remember one situation like it was yesterday. I was about 7 years old and we had a substitute teacher at school. I was a very quiet and unassuming student, preferring to stay invisible to avoid bullying and being singled out. I look back and also realise it was a survival mechanism born of my home situation. The male substitute teacher came in to the classroom with his guitar. He played his guitar the whole class had fun that day. There was a storm coming over during the day and he showed us how to work out how many miles away the storm was by counting between lightning and thunder. The simple things he shared that day fascinated and engaged me. The biggest impact on me though was that through his ability to be present and kind, I, for what felt like the first time in my short life, was acknowledge and accepted. I was noticed as an individual for no particular reason at all. He spoke to me not at me.
On this day something inside of me was opened that helped me begin to feel stronger, and that there was another way to be. It is sometimes the simplest acts of kindness, even by a complete stranger, that can change a person’s life, would you agree?
My suggested activities for you to make 2016 a year to Be Kind:
Be kind to your children. If you conduct yourself in a kind, respectful way, children learn what it feels like to be treated kindly, and are more likely to pay it forward. You can still be firm, have consequences and guide and protect your children; you just do it with a kind tone and intention.
Kindness is never judging or demeaning. Kindness acknowledges differences and behaviour, yet isn’t ever a personal put down. In the Oxford dictionary the meaning of kindness is – The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Ask yourself how could you implement more friendliness, generosity and consideration into your parenting style each day?
To get you started, check out this popular post on Creative With Kids called 100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child. http://creativewithkids.com/100-ways-to-be-kind-to-your-child/
Be kind to your partner. The most important act of kindness your children, or anyone, can see is the way you treat your partner. Children are watching you absorbing beliefs of how a relationship works and learning how you treat those you love. Others may be looking to you for guidance on the do’s and don’ts of a successful relationship.
Kindness is a powerful antidote for anger and resentment in a relationship. It is the great re-connector.
An excellent guide I use to keep the kindness balance in your relationships is for one negative statement or action there are five positive ones. Both parties will be left with ripples of warm and fuzzy feelings after sharing moments and acts of kindness.
How could you be more kind to your partner? How could you show you love your partner each day?
Make friends. Friendship is a lasting way we can show kindness to another person. It is life affirming to have close friends that love you no matter what and that are there for you and you for them during the ups and downs.
Encourage your whole family to be kind to someone, appropriately, who is lonely or left out. Smile at people you walk past as if they are friends and if someone is struggling lend them a hand. Stop and ask, “how is your day going,” to the shop assistant, parent waiting at school pick up, person waiting at the same bus stop, and really want to hear the answer.
Communicate why kindness is important. Words and phrases said enough times, positive or negative, can permeate your thinking to create habits of inner dialogue which then affect your choices, decisions and actions. Wouldn’t you like to be able to change people’s thinking for the better and kinder? Why not infuse kindness thoughts?
Talk to your family often about why it is essential to be kind and to witness kind acts. Tell stories about kind things you did or saw that day. Tell them about the health benefits, the benefits to others and the philosophy behind it. Talk to your friend group about kindness too and things you are planning to do. Why not create a wave of kindness? You know what they say about a drop in the ocean!
Reward kind acts. Anybody loves attention and being noticed, so shower them with it when they’ve done kind things. Instead of just re-directing and criticising children for not sharing or being rough or rude with another, make a fuss when they do share or give. When somebody is kind to you, thank him or her or return an act of kindness. Be present in the moment and share the joy of acknowledgement as this, I believe, is the best gift of all.
Help others. Organisations such as the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation and the Pay it Forward Foundation all suggest participating in kindness by:
- Participate in a walk or run that raises money for a good cause.
- Donate regularly to lifeline, Salvation Army or the like.
- Let your child think of ways to help out victims of natural disasters.
- If you have money to give to charity, ask your children to help you decide whom to give to.
- Initiate a fundraiser through school to help people in need.
- If you notice someone needs a hand, reach out without a second thought or expectation.
Model it. The best way to teach kindness and create ripples in your community or group of friends and family is not by telling but doing it yourself.
Firstly be kind to yourself always. Psychologists are finding that self-compassion may be the most important life skill – imparting resilience, courage, energy and creativity. Then show kindness often to others, whether you do volunteer work, help friends when needed, mow a neighbour’s lawn or just treat others with dignity and respect, those around you will pick up on this and want to copy it.
My daughter often tells me that I am too nice. I don’t think so! I respond by saying either, ‘why not be nice to people?’ or ‘what is the point of meeting negativity or anger with the same?’ I always attempt to take a higher path, remembering the saying you catch more flies with honey that you do vinegar. It doesn’t mean I don’t get mad or frustrated at times, and my little life witnesses see that too, it is just that I make a choice to be kind and calm down most of the time.
Your actions have to match your words, which means looking after yourself and honouring your needs and behaving in a manner that shows respect for others no matter what their financial situation, religion or even personality. Avoid being nice to someone in person and then talking about them behind their back, even if someone is not a great person and you dislike him or her for good reason, you can still be polite about it and let it go to move on with your life.
Watch what you say. Words have enormous power. Work on taking away words such as stupid, hate, shut up, idiot and any racist or biased terms. We call them ‘put downs’ in our home.
When any member of your family, or even those you spend time with, says such words tell them that those words hurt others and ask them to rephrase what they want to say around you. Let others know that you would rather not hear gossip, put downs, nastiness or mean comments.
I love the meaning behind words that is given in the book The Four Agreements by Miguel Angel Ruiz –
“Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.”
Enjoy kindness. Finally, the whole point of being kind is to make the world a more fun, safe and happy place. It is in our nature to show caring, compassion and empathy. Why spend so much energy blocking these human natural functions? Why not just let it flow?
So when your family member engages in kind acts, when you witness something kind, or even when you’re the recipient of kindness – show your joy. Keep an open discussion about your feelings around kind acts and encourage everyone to feel how wonderful it is to give and receive from others. It is a wonderful thing, a game changer and an energy enhancer.
World Kindness Australia’s motto is – “because it is cool to be kind.” I think 2016 could be your coolest year ever.