What is kindness?
At first glance it may seem obvious what ‘kindness’ means. It may mean different things to different people. Maybe it is something you have never given much thought to before?
Here is my favourite definition of kindness - the true act of giving without having to receive! Although I love this definition; I admit that sometimes it can be tough not to expect something in return. That is ok though as I am only human and a work in progress…
Being kind does not need to cost anything. These simple acts are something we can all do. Would you like to add an element of kindness to your day?
- Give someone a compliment.
- Smile at people and watch their response.
- Open doors for people
- Text a friend who is struggling
- Cook a meal for someone in need
- Check in on vulnerable neighbours
- Say ‘I love you’ to those you care about.
- Spending time ‘listening’ to a friend in need
The last one really resonates with me. Truly ‘listening’ with an open heart and mind is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves and others. This is not always easy in the modern world as there are relentless distractions to contend with, such as our smart phone and always available culture. To give someone our complete attention when they speak is the truest form of kindness. A counselling relationship is based on this foundation.
Next time you are ‘listening’ to a friend, see if you can refrain from judging them and just listen to their experience. It is extremely powerful to be on the receiving end of this form of acceptance.
Kindness is contagious!
It feels relevant right now to focus on kindness and its benefits, given the uncertain world we are living in. Kindness is prevailing all over the globe. We have seen many acts of kindness and witnessed how these have strengthened communities and united people from all walks of life. There isn’t a better example than Captain Sir Tom Moore walking lengths of his garden for the NHS or the weekly clap for the NHS/carers. These set off a ripple effect of kindness and solidarity that I have found heart-warming. It’s true – kindness really is contagious!
On a personal note, I have witnessed many acts of kindness from neighbours I did not even know before this pandemic. Seeing how we have collectively come together through sharing scarce food supplies, shopping for the vulnerable to keep them safe and looking out for each other, has really brought this home. I feel fortunate this has been my experience and this sense of community has brought back fond memories reminiscent of my childhood, where reciprocal acts of kindness were plentiful. These acts of kindness have imprinted heartening, positive feelings on me, making the collective experience more palatable. Unfortunately, though, for a variety of reasons this has not been everyone’s experience.
Kindness and mental health
The benefits of kindness are endless. It can help to reduce isolation, increase someone’s sense of belonging and help with their mood and well-being. It can also reduce stress and even benefit physical health. In a time when social connection is restricted, kindness has become a fundamental part of our existence.
Research tells us there is a strong link between kindness and our mental health. There has never been a better time for us to focus on our individual and collective mental health and it is something we can all participate in.
Science tells us that acts of kindness trigger our ‘feel good’ hormones, leaving us with feelings of satisfaction and happiness. If kindness is not something that comes naturally to you, build up your ‘kindness muscle’ by practising being kind. It’s official – it really is good for your mental well-being. What have you got to lose?
The power of kindness
We have seen that kindness has huge potential to enhance lives, making it a powerful gesture. With such potent properties, why then does it feel like kindness had been somewhat lost in the fast-paced modern world, only to re-emerge during this time of collective uncertainty? Maybe the stress of our ever changing, non-stop society has led to the apparent loss of demonstrations of kindness?
Whatever the reasons, it would be nice to think that the resurgence of kindness was here to stay and that our society post-pandemic will view it as a priority. Only time will tell!
Until next time.