We all consider ourselves, kind, nice, altruistic and sensitive to other people in need, but what tangible, concrete actions are we taking to give ourselves these titles?
This is where I started to ponder on what makes a kind person and how can I become kinder.
l, like many people, have been studying personal development and spirituality for many years. Personal development covers activities that improve awareness, develop talents, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations, often materialistic. Spirituality, on the other hand, teaches us to look within for insight into the workings of the mind, which keeps us imprisoned in endless craving, suffering and lack.
One philosophy preaches fulfillment through self-maximization, the other enlightenment through minimization. One promotes happiness through action, the other through meditation. One originates in the West, the other deeply rooted in the East.
But on one point both the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley and the yogis of India agree: we are social creatures who are part of a vast network, sharing a common history and future, connected by mutual needs, hopes, and dreams. And we are usually so busy perusing our own personal growth that we forget connecting with anyone who isn’t an immediate friend, coworker or family.
I personally believe kindness begins with random acts, for no particular reason. It is easy to be kind when faced with a challenge such as a friend in need or helping out the family. It is tough being kind when there is no external pressure to do so, no clear incentive. Below are five ways you can be a kinder person, right now. To be clear, you may already be doing these things below, and if not, it does not mean you are not kind. I just think we all want to do cool things for others but are so caught up with our schedules that we don’t believe we have the time to do so.
Various studies across the globe have shown time and time again that doing things for others makes us happier in return. With these five steps, we can instantly become kinder and happier people:
1. Be the person who compliments others.
Ever received an impromptu compliment that turned around your day?
Compliments can keep your spirit high as they enter your subconscious, making you happier. If anything, it will put a smile on your face. I was once sent a message on social media complimenting me once for how I was dancing (I am a salsa addict) and it really made me feel unstoppable that day. This is why the first tip is to compliment other people whenever you get the opportunity to do so. It is easy, costs no money and you can do it anytime.
2. Give presents.
Remember a time when you were super excited for presents? Children love presents because they are exciting, spontaneous and rewarding. As we get older and more independent, we lose the value of presents and gifts, we have seen it all before and it takes more to amuse us. Receiving a gift from someone, not just on a birthday, is a wonderful phenomenon. You can be conscious of the fact that someone went out of their way to get you something they thought you would like. That is why the second tip is to gift your friends or family—the key is that the smaller things in life count, you do not need to spend a fortune. You may just be out and see something nice for a friend, or when you go on holiday there may be some meaningful souvenirs or postcards.
3. Be charitable.
You do not need to sign up to a 12 month charity subscription, travel across the world to help those in third world countries, or throw freezing cold water over yourself. One of the challenges in the kindness 365 challenge, created by myself and Dekel Berenson, is to feed the homeless and donate old clothes. Sometimes we are quite wasteful, buying too much food and wasting it and buying clothes that we don’t wear. Why not kill two birds with one stone and give away old clothes to the homeless, donate old books and toys to charity shops and or just make some extra food and give it to the homeless?
4. Do something spontaneous and random.
I am a strong believer of breaking out of my comfort zone, whether it’s travelling somewhere far away, visiting a new part of town, trying out a new activity or class or doing something I have never been good at (say, learning an instrument). You don’t need to do anything drastic like decide to quite your job and work on a farm in Thailand. It can be as simple as inviting friends round for dinner—be that social person who organizes events for friends, or even smaller challenges like committing to reading positive affirmations to yourself everyday. Neuro-lingistic programming (NLP) is a technique to change or reprogram your brain. It speaks about the possibility of opening up new neuro-pathways by making subtle changes in your everyday lifestyle. Therefore, you could even ride the bicycle to work one day to break the norm, and start shifting your mindset.
5. Be kind to yourself.
In order to be kind to others, you need to be kind to yourself. If you are not clear of mind, heart and spirit how can you give your love, your gift? The best of yourself? This can include eating well, exercising, maybe even venturing into mediation. If you are in a good state of mind, you will be more than able to give of yourself and be kinder.
Right now, think of something you know you can do to be that little bit happier and healthier—it may be as simple as making a bet with yourself to go to bed 30 minutes earlier, or get off the computer or social media sooner. The more oxytocin (feel good hormone) you get in comparison to cortisol (stress hormone) can make you over all more happy thus more prone to be kind. It could even be treating yourself at your favourite cold pressed juice bar, eating that delicious raw organic chocolate bar, or sipping some artisan coffee, it is all about balance.
Will these five kindness tips turn you into a saint? The Buddha? A guru? Probably not, but they’re a step in a nice direction.
Author: Dekel Berenson
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: elephant journal