Kindness is something we all know, but what does it really mean and why is it so important?
Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Affection, gentleness, warmth, concern, and care are words that are associated with kindness. We are taught as children to be kind, mainly to other kids as well as everyone we encountered. I was taught that if you are kind, others will be kind back, and for the most part that was true as a child and as an adult.
Benefits of being kind
When we practice kindness either to other people or towards ourselves, we can experience positive mental and physical changes through lowering stress levels and increasing the body's production of feel-good hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. Being kind helps boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure and reduce stress and anxiety.
Kindness to Others
Showing kindness to others does not have to mean doing something big or life changing. Often, it’s the smallest acts of kindness that can have the most impact. A moment of support in a time of need, a quiet word of encouragement, a helping hand to carry a heavy load, or just a smile that says ‘I see you’ can make a world of difference. Whatever the act itself, it’ll be underpinned by four principles:
Awareness – be aware of the opportunity to be kind. We can’t recognise the need if we are completely absorbed in our thoughts, our own world, or our on-line alter egos.
Non-judgment – be prepared to suspend judgment if we want to be truly kind. It’s not for us to judge the good or bad, right or wrong of another person’s situation. It’s only for us to recognise there is an opportunity for us to be kind.
Action – we must act in a friendly, generous and considerate manner to the person in front of us. Awareness without action can’t be kind.
Unconditional – being kind means offering kindness without conditions or expectation of reward. The real reward for a kindness is in the inner positivity, rather than any external reward or recognition.
Kindness to Yourself
Being kind to yourself is not just a nice idea, it is an essential form of self care and a vital foundation for sustained kindness to others. Remember those aircraft safety briefings that stress the importance of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others? Well, kindness to yourself is a bit like that.
Many people are strongly committed to taking care of everyone and everything around them that they forgot to take care of themselves. They are going through life trying so hard to look after others, all the while not realizing they don’t have their own oxygen mask on. Eventually they reach a breaking point.
Here are just a few simple ways you can show yourself a bit of kindness every day.
Self-awareness - being kind to yourself starts by building your self-awareness, listening to your internal voice with a sense of curiosity. What are you telling yourself, how often are you being negative or hard on yourself? How infrequently are you praising yourself, recognising all the things you are so good at? Consciously recognise all the positive things about yourself.
Generosity - be generous with yourself and do things just for you. Self-care days can be so important, you don’t have to take a whole day, just be sure to take time for yourself.
Avoid comparison - beware the danger of comparisons. Don’t fall into the comparison trap because this is one route to lots of negative self-talk and critique. The opposite of kindness.
Recharge – listen to your body and mind, take time to recharge before you run completely empty. This isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. And doing so means you are being friendly, generous, and considerate to yourself.
The great thing is that it isn’t difficult to be kind. As the Dalai Lama said, ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible’.
Be kind and share kindness,