Do you remember the last time someone was kind to you? When a friend or family member went out of their way to be considerate, understanding, or simply showed you they care? We all remember and cherish these times because they remind us we belong, are loved, and are not alone in the world.
How would our days be different if we created more kindness at home, work, and out in the world? What if, instead of trying to correct what’s wrong with a situation or another person, we took the opportunity to respond with kindness instead of criticism?
There are so many ways to contribute a bit of kindness to the lives of others. Close relationships, such as within families, are prime places to do so. It’s so easy for us to take for granted the presence of these people in our lives, and to assume they know we care about them. An unexpected act of kindness can go a long way toward highlighting our love for them. With lots of deposits in your “kindness account”, occasional crabbiness will be overlooked more readily. Acts of kindness indicate that you can be trusted to nurture the relationship, leading to deepening the relationship.
There are many ways to be kind outside your family as well. You can volunteer in a community organization, help a neighbor or friend, donate to a worthy cause, reach out to someone who seems lonely, etc. It can be particularly fun to plan kindness in tandem with others to multiply the effects.
There is no hard and fast rule about what is kind. We often think of kindness as doing something, but it may also mean exercising restraint. It might be kind to let someone else “win” an argument you don’t feel strongly about, or in some way concede they might be right. Sometimes asking for help can be a kindness, allowing another to feel the joy of helping. Kindness flows both ways.
Spreading kindness feels good and is also good for you. According to the latest research I’ve seen, intentionally increasing the kindness you show can also increase how positive you feel. To maximize this benefit, try scheduling several acts of kindness for one day of the week or month. Structuring or clustering them in this way draws your own attention to the kindness you share and amps up your positive outlook, improving your overall experience of happiness. Research also shows that those who help others tend to live longer.
Kindness can also be done anonymously. For example, someone planted flower bulbs in a highway meridian and the resulting flowers made me smile when I was traveling that road. I have no idea who planted them, and they didn’t know of my enjoyment, but it felt like a kindness to me and raised my spirits. Donating blood to an unknown recipient is very kind, too.
Kindness does require a bit of thought. Though we’ve all heard of the Golden Rule, doing something for someone else that you would like will not always work. Bringing flowers to a friend who’s feeling down would not be kind if they were allergic to them.
Finally, take time to notice how good you feel after performing an act of kindness, the positive connection to the person you helped, and the sense of pride for making a contribution. To prolong this benefit, make it a regular part of your life.
So look around for opportunities to perform acts of kindness for others – they can change your world.