13th November is designated ‘World Kindness Day’
This sits fittingly alongside the ‘Children in Need’ charity fund-raising events here in the UK.
But you don’t need a ‘day’ to talk about kindness. Every day is an opportunity to experience it and share kindnesses with others. Here are some reminders:
‘Kindness’ is a strength and an important life-skill
Your own personal view and experience of kindness will be unique. If you haven’t experienced the small kindnesses of strangers, or offered out kindness to others, you perhaps don’t think of it as a strength or an integral part of your life.
But I’d like to think that many of us DO realise the value of kindness. Here’s how ‘being kind’ has more benefits than you might realise and how to develop it as a life-skill:
1. Be kind to yourself
Very often you can be unkind to yourself – harsher and more cruel than you would ever be to those around you.
You might have expectations to be perfect. To avoid making mistakes or always be ‘positive’. When you do make mistakes, it can feel as though you’re isolated. You ask yourself, ‘why me?’ or ‘I’m a loser’.
Dr Kristin Neff, in her work at the University of Texas, talks about how many of us are extremely tough on ourselves.
This self-critical and sometimes damming approach towards our failures is often an automatic response. It can lead us to further negative self-absorption and a continuous replay of the inner critic.
We know that we are all human, and mistakes and failures are part of our shared humanity. Developing a kind and loving attitude towards ourselves, makes it then easier to deal with life’s challenges. Dr Kristin Neff talks about self-compassion and self-kindness here in these great little videos.
2. Be kind to others
Being kind to others is not just beneficial for the recipients, but it also benefits you with wider implications on your physical health. As part of the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which maintains your body’s steady-state, the vagus nerve is involved in lowering heart rate:
‘The vagus regulates how efficiently heart rate changes with breathing and, in general, the greater its tone, the higher the heart-rate variability and the lower the risk for cardiovascular disease and other major killers. It may also play a role in regulating glucose levels and immune responses.’
The research in North Carolina, led by Barbara Fredrickson, took two groups, and one of the groups practiced loving kindness meditation over 6 weeks:
People were taught to silently repeat phrases like “May you feel safe, may you feel happy, may you feel healthy, may you live with ease,” and keep returning to these thoughts when their minds wandered.
They were also advised to focus on these thoughts, and on other people, in stressful situations like when they were stuck in traffic.
“It’s kind of softening your own heart to be more open to others,” says Fredrickson.
The results overall, showed how nurturing these feelings of compassion, kindness and connection to others, increased levels of wellbeing for those practicing the kind thoughts.
Further studies are needed, but this short, readable article on why kindness can make us happier and healthier is a great indicator that extending kindness towards others benefits everyone!
3. Practice self-compassion with Kristin Neff’s 3-step Compassion Meditation
4. Random acts of kindness
Of course, it’s sometimes easier to be kind and compassionate to those we love or at least know. Yet there has been a growing trend in recent years for ‘random acts of kindness’.
It all started in a restaurant in Sausalito, California, in 1982. A customer, Anne Herbert, scribbled the words ‘practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty’ on a place mat. From there it spread with this history of random acts of kindness detailing its journey.
I like this random act of kindness I found on the internet about a bus driver who bought a new coat for a homeless guy he used to see on his bus route.
Do you think Random Acts of Kindness are too small to make a difference? Still not convinced it’s good for you and for others?
You’ll only ever know if you try! Have a browse of these 29 Random Acts of Kindness or dream up more of your own! Then go ahead – be kind, whether it’s for ‘Children in Need’, any charity you like to support and on any day of the year!
Updated since first published November 2015
You might also like to read: Do you become kinder if you meditate?