The 13th November marks World Kindness Day - but do we really need to be told to be kind? With bullying on the increase (especially via social media), empathy levels falling and rates of depression at an all time high, it seems so.
What does 'being kind' actually mean? It can be a big generous act that changes lives or it can simply mean showing care, concern and consideration towards others. Think about the last time someone did something kind for you. Do you remember how it felt? It can have a profound effect. We never know when somebody else needs that simple affirmation, that little boost, that reason to smile.
It isn't as straightforward as it seems though. Any kindness carries with it an intent. Am I being kind so that people will perceive me as a 'nice' person? Am I being kind because I am avoiding an uncomfortable situation (in which case I might be enabling someone else's damaging behaviours)? Am I being kind with the expectation of reciprocal kindness? Does being kind make me feel better about myself? None of these are 'good' or 'bad' reasons to be kind, it's just useful to explore the intent. But kindness with no expectation can be the most powerful.
The good news is the research suggests being kind can make us happier and healthier, lowering stress levels and giving us purpose or meaning. Being kind has been shown to release 'feel-good' hormones; it reduces anxiety which has a knock on positive effect on our physical health. This feels like a win/win scenario then - show kindness towards someone and we both feel better for it. There is no downside!
Random acts of kindness can spread like ripples on a pond resulting in many people feeling just that little bit happier, more valued or worthwhile. These acts are anonymous and often spontaneous. We don't have to change someone's life, just have a positive effect in that moment. Here are some examples we can all try:
smile at someone
give someone a genuine compliment
say thank you to people especially those who don't usually get thanked
ask someone how they are (and listen to the answer)
help someone by opening a door, carrying their shopping, letting them go before you in a queue, clearing up for them
listen to someone without judgement and without interrupting
pay for someone's coffee
give up you seat on the bus or train
donate to a charity
send a card or email to someone you haven't contacted for a while
spend time with someone who is having a hard time
be that person who finds the positive when others can only see the negative - speak up for someone
if you feel something positive about someone, tell them - let them know they have made your day easier, they have taught you something, tell them their singing makes you feel happy or that their children are wonderful company.
volunteer - there are loads of organisations that are crying out for your contribution.
Just one random act of kindness a day can have hugely positive effect on how we feel about ourselves so why not give it a go and see what happens - imagine the ripples.