Note: Last month when I wrote about Reflection, I forgot to mention about blogging in 2022 and where I was getting my inspiration. In addition to regularly choosing a word to work with during the year, this year I will share a different word with you each month. I invite you to use the word as a journal or meditation prompt. The words are not random. The words I am using this year are from an altered book my Mom made for me after she attended one of my Yoga, Art & Hiking Trips.
The book is called Stations because the hotel we stayed at in Taos, NM had a labyrinth and a walking path with a variety of stations to stop at for contemplation or meditation. Above is a picture of the book and last month’s word – Reflect
Now on to today’s blog…
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” The Dalai Lama
I have been musing on the idea of kindness and what it means. I realize it isn’t exactly the same as being nice, it is much bigger than that. Kindness is expansive and to me includes elements of generosity, respect, selflessness, compassion, and consideration. Kindness isn’t something we should only be for other people, we need to show kindness to ourselves as well.
When we are kind to ourselves or others, we experience positive mental, emotional and physical changes. Our blood pressure declines and we increase production of our feel-good hormones like dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin . Being kind helps boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure and reduce stress and anxiety. (WHO, 2018)
A 2019 study in The Journal of Social Psychology found that people who performed kindness activities for seven days saw a boost in happiness. The degree to which their happiness increased was directly tied to the number of acts of kindness they performed.
“The key is to repeat acts of kindness throughout your week in order for the benefits to be long-lasting. Ongoing acts of kindness toward yourself, co-workers, neighbors, and loved ones can promote the continued feelings associated with making a random act of kindness.” — Meghan Marcum, PSYD
Regular acts of kindness also help us combat what is called negativity bias. Bottom line, we have an innate ability to focus more on bad things than good things. Now, if we were still cave people and always looking out for the sabre tooth tiger this isn’t such a bad way of living. However, today we aren’t running from this type of danger. Instead, we often misread the look on someone’s face, we forget we had 20 “likes” and only see the one disgruntled comment on Facebook and Instagram.
When we practice kindness the negativity bias lessens. It gives us something positive to focus on and can often boost our self esteem and self-confidence. Kindness also helps to create a greater sense of community.
Here are a few ways to practice kindness to others:
- Send a note or letter to someone you care about. I often will pick up postcards to mail a quick hello to someone. I still love to get mail although an email hello is also a wonderful way to connect.
- Do you know someone who could use a break from their kids? Why not offer to babysit every once in a while?
- Give a shout out to a local business on Google, Yelp or Facebook.
- Donate your gently used clothing or home goods.
- Donate towels and blankets to a homeless or animal shelter
- Send appreciation notes to your colleagues or tell a coworker you appreciate them. Tell the local barista or food server as well.
- Find a way to volunteer your time.
- Shovel someone’s driveway or make a meal for a neighbor.
- Smile at everyone.
- If you can financially afford it, buy the person behind you in line’s coffee.
- Give 1% of your income to a charity.
- Support a crowdfunding project.
AND don’t forget to be kind to yourself.
Don’t judge yourself too harshly, try to keep self criticism to a minimum and apologize to yourself if you do self-criticize. Try not to compare yourself to others.
Become more aware of your needs. Spend time checking-in everyday; maybe at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day. Or heck, check-in three times a day – write a lunchtime check-in on your schedule.
Take time daily to not only check-in but to recharge. What kindness are you doing for yourself? I find my daily meditation helpful. But, I also buy myself flowers every once in a while. I’ll even take a short nap in the middle of the day.
What do you do for yourself and others to be kind?
Mark your calendar…National Random Acts of Kindness Day is February 17th. Consider spending the week doing at least one random act of kindness everyday.