These days we are being called upon to be kind to others and ourselves. Even Time Magazine recently published a special edition championing the benefits of kindness. Why? Kindness has a way of boosting a person’s mood with little effort by shifting our attention on the positive. Being kind is associated with health and well-being, by reducing stress and its related consequences. At a time when the pandemic is weighing heavily on people’s mental health, being kind is something we can all do to help ourselves and other people, and to foster a sense of community.
Take for instance, Mary, a neighbour who was known by all for her kindness and cheerfulness. She always had just the right words to let you know you mattered. Just as she did one day last fall when she commented on how much she enjoyed reading articles by Gateway Autobody (#gatewayautobody) in a local community magazine (#neighbourseaststpaul). Recalling Mary’s simple act on this day, I can still feel the warmth of her personality, and how her kind words make me feel appreciated so many months later.
Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. Affection, gentleness, warmth, concern and care are words typically associated with kindness. While some people are naturally kind, kindness is an interpersonal skill that can be developed. According to researchers, there are three essential components to kindness – (1) awareness (2) accountability and (3) action.
Awareness – Becoming skillful at being kind requires awareness outside our immediate selves, and a willingness to help another person or to provide a spontaneous gift. With people leading hectic lives or being otherwise preoccupied, being aware of one’s surroundings and others is not easy. Awareness must be a conscious effort, as we can be easily derailed with focusing on the “doing of things” rather than “living the moment”.
Accountability – This means being responsible for acts that happen. As such, placing accountability within the context of kindness, means willing yourself to be open to opportunities to provide acts of kindness. In other words, one must identify what types of acts they are willing or able to perform.
Make time to brainstorm upon acts of kindness that you’re able to easily introduce into your daily life; such as a kind word, a smile, opening a door or helping to carry a heavy load. Celebrating someone you love, giving honest compliments, sending an email thanking someone, telling someone she/he is special to you, helping a neighbour, taking a photo of someone else and sending it to them, sharing homemade food…these are other examples of kindness and cost nothing but effort and the willingness to put out. There are many ways to practice kindness; simply find what is best for you.
Action – To benefit from acts of kindness, requires accepting the benefits resulting from being kind. One way to explore the benefits is to consciously perform simple acts of kindness over a short period of time, and then note how you feel afterwards. You may be astonished at how good you feel.
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