What does kindness entail? Is it simply being polite and considerate to others? Or does it require an actual act? Are we kind if we are only kind to certain people? How can we be more kind? Kindness, like happiness, is a choice we get to make every day of our lives. While on the train back to Stockholm from Gothenburg this past weekend, I had a little time to contemplate what it means to be kind and also assess how kind I’ve been lately. Which, unfortunately, hasn’t been so much.
I find that when a part of my life is unhappy, I start to lose my ability to express happiness, kindness, tolerance, etc. Everything feels like a chore and I walk around in what feels like a little, black rain cloud of grumpiness. But what I realized is that, if I allow this small part of my current situation to rule how I present myself to the world, I have let it win. I have allowed it to beat me.
It doesn’t have to win. We ultimately have control over what we allow ourselves to experience. And while sitting day after day in a situation that feels overwhelming, diminishing, and just well, not good, it does not have to have the power, the upper hand. We can take back control at any time. We can put up an invisible “force shield” around us to protect us from the black rain clouds. Just like having a happy talisman to trigger feelings of happiness, we can train our minds and hearts to practice kindness.
"Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" - Anne Herbert
Here are five ways we can try to be more kind to ourselves and those around us:
1. Decide each day before you leave home, that you will be more patient with people you encounter, especially strangers and even if they are rude. Perhaps they are having the worst day of their lives and your kindness could make their day.
2. Smile and make eye contact with five people, strangers or otherwise (cats and dogs count, though it can be pretty difficult to make eye contact with a cat).
3. Give yourself a mental hug by acknowledging five things you love about yourself each morning before you get out of bed. Even one or two make a difference.
4. Go for a walk, or spend some time outdoors, and appreciate the miracle of nature.
5. Give up at least one thing that irritates you. Just let it go and watch it fly away from you.