Listening to a podcast recently where Hugh Mackay, a social psychologist and author of ‘The Kindness Revolution’, was being interviewed, he spoke about how humans are wired to be kind. He says “To be kind – always and to everyone – is to be fully, gloriously human, and every act of kindness is one more step towards a better society.”
Certainly, in this day and age, kindness is needed. The amount of pain that we’re exposed to now is a magnitude higher than anything we have been evolved to face. Our great-grandparents didn’t see anything near the flow of horrific images and judgmental words and painful events that we do now.
Technology has created such a challenge for us now that we can instantly see all the horrible things happening in the world on our devices – on our TVs, phones, computers, and even on our apple watches. The devastating impact of bushfires, terrorist attacks, and the torment of cyber bullying — our children are seeing it on their screens and unfortunately we cannot throw out enough televisions and iPhones to protect them from it.
But there is one thing that us humans can do. In fact, we’re wired to do so – and that is to bring more kindness into the world. We need to show kindness to ourselves and to others – to allow us to better handle these serious and sober events we’re all being exposed to and to remind us that there is good in this world. Because a cute little ten second video of a cat at the end of a sombre news segment on TV just isn’t cutting it!
When people are on the receiving end of kindness research suggests this builds a sense of connectedness, enhanced satisfaction with daily life, optimism, and reduced anxiety for that person. But the person also doing the act of kindness benefits too, in that they experience increased levels of happiness and gratitude, helps them feel good about themselves and leads to overall wellbeing. So it’s a win-win whether you are the instigator of kindness or the recipient. But it doesn’t stop there! Amazingly, those that witness or observe acts of kindness, are more likely to want to be kind themselves. What a superpower!
Mackay believes that we have the capacity to be kind to everyone; that kindness is our greatest asset as humans. So, we’ve put together a number of ways that you can start showing kindness to others:
- Paying it forward– treat someone to something, like buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you in the café queue.
- Send a letter – hand-write a thank you note to someone you admire or who has helped you out, or just to say hi. When was the last time you received a handwritten letter? Let’s change that.
- Post a sticky note– stick post-it notes with nice messages written on them around your house, the office, or somewhere in public.
- Volunteering – being a volunteer helps others and is good for your mental health too.
- Donating clothes– help people out by giving away what you no longer want or need.
- Smiling at strangers– smiling is contagious and it makes you feel good if people smile back.
- Comment on a post you enjoyed – Read an awesome post or blog? Send a little love to the author. It’s actually worth the effort of making the Internet a positive and constructive place.
- Be kind to your waiter or barrister – Make a little effort to make eye contact with the person serving you. Smile. Ask how they are doing. Maybe even a nice tip would be nice.
- Find out something new about a co-worker – When you see someone almost every day, it can be easy to get caught in the motions of familiar conversation. Make an effort to learn something new about a co-worker.
- Write a positive review for a business: Been to a great business lately, why not write a positive review for them? Especially for all of those small business owners out there that have been doing it tough during Covid. They will certainly appreciate it.
- Ask an elderly person about their past: they have a lifetime of experiences to reflect on. Listen and learn.
- Wheel out or bring in your neighbour’s rubbish bin – This is not a hard thing to do, and doesn’t take up too much of your time. Your neighbour will certainly appreciate it, especially if they forget about bin day.
- Acts of kindness jar – And this is our favourite suggestion and a great idea to do with your family. Write down as many acts of kindness that you can, cut them out into slips and place them in a jar. Then pull out a slip from the jar each time they want to perform an act of kindness. You might choose to do this once a week. That would make for a great dinner conversation that night about how you went with your act of kindness and what the outcome was.
We’d love to hear about any acts of kindness you have done, been a recipient of or witnessed. Or perhaps you could share with us some more ideas you have in the comments below. Doing so, would be an act of kindness in itself!