“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” ~Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama~
Random Acts of Kindness Week may still be months away, but it is never too early (or too often) to be reminded of the simple benefits of kindness in your daily life. Kindness is one of the easiest methods to achieve mental and physical health. Although it may not be listed in treatment protocols for chronic conditions, small acts of kindness help not only the giver but also the receiver.
There is research that clarifies the mental and physical health benefits of kindness, including a greater sense of balance and well-being for those who volunteer when compared to those who do not. Volunteers also feel a greater connection and more purpose in their lives, especially as they age and move into the empty-nest stage of life.
Other research is studying how mindfulness that generates acts of loving kindness affect the brains of young people. Dr. Ahmed Mohammed, from the school of psychology at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) wants to know if this type of mindfulness can physically change the brains of young people to help them make a positive impact on the world. He highlights the benefits of his research and potential outcomes like this:
“Mindfulness is free, cost-effective and non-invasive. The aim is to discover if mindfulness compared with active relaxation can improve the subjective wellbeing and brain measures in health young adolescents who have never been exposed to mindfulness training.”
“Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns.” ~Author Unknown~
This is what the research on kindness is saying, but what we know to be true is very simple: kindness costs nothing, and its rewards are immeasurable. There are many ways to make someone’s life brighter, and we present a few of them here for your consideration.
Consider this: You can change the way you think about the holiday season
Everyone is rushing to get things done. Presents need to be purchased and wrapped and the house needs to be prepared for guests. There is often grumbling about how busy everyone is and how going to one more holiday party might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The holidays are supposed to be filled with love and family and friends, but somewhere that changed to checking things off a to-do list.
Stop. Just stop.
Change your mind to the time when the holidays meant more than just presents and go back to that. Eliminate the things that detract from that and focus on traditions that mean something. There is a saying, “Charity begins at home.” The same goes for kindness. You do your family a kindness by stepping off the holiday hamster wheel and focusing on those things that bring you joy.
Consider this: Even in pain, you have much to be grateful for
Sometimes it is difficult to see the forest for the pain of all the trees. If you are a chronic pain caregiver, it can be hard to see any light streaming through the canopy. Even through this you can recognize that there are others suffering. This does not in any way take away from the very legitimate pain that you or a loved one may be feeling. Rather, it lends perspective and may help you realize that even with all of your challenges you have so much to offer the world.
Consider this: It only takes a second to do a kindness that changes someone’s day, and it needn’t cost a lot of money
If you take the first step and change the way you think about the holiday season, you may find yourself with some time to do a small kindness for someone. And once you understand that you have more to offer than you may have thought, kindness to others becomes easier and more automatic. Here are twenty small kindnesses that you can do to get you started. Some cost money, others are free.
- Pay for the coffee order of the person behind you (or buy them a $10 giftcard). Anonymously.
- Sit down and listen with your full attention to your preschooler’s chatty stories.
- Do the same for your elderly neighbor.
- Do the same for your partner.
- Smile at people and look them in the eye on the street.
- Shovel your neighbors snowy walkway. Anonymously.
- Make three loaves of bread: one for you, one for a friend, and one for someone in need.
- Put together a holiday meal for a local family in need.
- Do a household chore that isn’t yours.
- Write a sweet note to a family member.
- Send your partner a love letter.
- Donate blood.
- Babysit for new parents. For free.
- Give long hugs.
- Let someone go in front of you in line.
- Buy a full meal for a homeless person.
- Leave flowers at someone’s doorstep. Anonymously.
- Contact local community organizations and see what their needs are.
- Donate food, newspapers, and old towels to the local animal shelter. Snuggle animals while you’re there.
- Make it a point to perform one daily act of kindness for two weeks straight. Then see if you can keep going.
Kindness feels good and rewards the giver as well as the receiver. Do everyone around you a favor, and make someone’s day brighter with kindness.
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
What kindness will you do today?
Image by Kate Ter Haar via Flickr