BY: MAILE PROCTOR
No matter what resolutions you made for 2017, there’s something we can and should all commit to this year and every year: being kind to others.
According to a survey, 76 per cent of respondents said the world is a less kind place than it was 10 to 20 years ago. While humans are naturally wired for kindness, we can forget to think of others when we’re bombarded by the stress of our day-to-day lives.
Remember, being kind to others doesn’t require a grand gesture, even little actions can make a big difference. To give you some inspiration, here are 10 easy ways to practice kindness this year.
Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes
You have probably heard this phrase over and over again, but more often than not, when we get angry or impatient or we mistreat others, it’s because we’ve lost our perspective. When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you think about what they are feeling and also about how your actions affect others. This makes you more empathetic and less likely to yell at someone in traffic or get angry when someone does something that displeases you.
“Empathy is understanding other people by using your imagination to feel something like what they are feeling, such as pain, sorrow, and other emotions,” writes Paul Thagard Ph.D. from Psychology Today. “Empathic understanding is important in many social situations, from friendships to psychotherapy.” When you take the time to think of another person’s feelings, instead of passing judgement or getting angry, you’re more likely to treat them with kindness and lend a helping hand. Try to practice this mindset in your daily life and you will instantly feel more compassion for others.
Be Kind to Yourself
I know the goal here is to be kind to others, but in order to do this, you have to start with yourself. The way you feel about yourself directly affects the way you treat others. “Kindness to yourself is kindness to others,” according to Rick Hanson from mindful. “As your own well-being increases, you’re more able and likely to be patient, supportive, forgiving, and loving. To take care of them, you’ve got to take care of yourself; otherwise you start running on empty.”
When you’re well rested, relaxed and in a positive state of mind, you’re more likely to be nice to others. So remember to practice self-care; pay attention to how you talk to yourself, and be conscious of your thoughts and your mood. Take time out of each day for yourself, do something that you enjoy or anything that brings you peace: read, write in your journal, do yoga, exercise, etc. When you treat yourself with love and kindness, you will naturally treat others the same way.
There are several different ways to volunteer and help those in need. You can help senior citizens, give your time at a hospital, offer your services at an animal shelter, serve food at a soup kitchen and more. The key is to find an activity that interests you so you’re more likely to stick with it.
Volunteering is a great way to get your family involved and to teach little ones about the importance of giving back to those in need. Find a cause that means something to you and make it a family affair.
Look around your house. Do you have things you don’t use like food, clothes, or books? Why not donate these items to people who need them more than you? You can take these items to Goodwill, donate them to the Salvation Army, or look online for other organizations that accept donations. Chances are you won’t even miss these things at home and you’ll be helping someone else who will appreciate your selflessness.
As humans, we’re all really hard on ourselves. As a result, praise and recognition from others can make you feel great, so why not extend this good feeling to others? When you compliment someone else, you lift them up; your words make them feel special and valued. “Compliments encourage others,” writes Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist. “Through kind words, we remind people of their value and their talents. All of us want to be noticed – receiving compliments confirms that we are. They provide confidence and joy and hope.”
Challenge yourself to compliment someone everyday. It could be a friend, a family member or someone you don’t know. Compliments are free and we guarantee they will brighten someone’s day and make you feel better, too.
This goes hand in hand with empathy, but try to forgive others and show them some compassion and understanding. There will inevitably be times where you’re upset with others, but the way you respond to this can have a big impact on your relationship with others and your relationship with yourself. Instead of holding on to anger, try to understand where the other person is coming from.
We’re often reluctant to forgive others because we have the misconception that forgiveness means a person’s actions are OK. Forgiveness simply means that you’ve made peace with the pain, and you are ready to let it go. This also means you’re not plotting revenge or redemption; remember, two wrongs don’t make a right.
Try to forgive others, and where necessary, remember to forgive yourself. You’ll feel less anger and resentment and you’ll feel more peace and positivity, which will influence your mood and your behaviour.
Smiling is one of the easiest ways to spread kindness. When you smile at someone, you make them feel good and make yourself feel better at the same time. Try it, it’s impossible to feel down when you smile.
You’ve probably heard that smiling is contagious, well it turns out, this is true! According to Huffington Post, we mimic smiles or frowns because it helps us better understand what other people are feeling, which allows us to respond appropriately. So spread some cheer and go ahead and flash those pearly whites.
How do you interact with the people you encounter during the day? Do you exchange a smile or small talk with the cashier at the grocery store or with your waitress or bank teller? Most of the time, we’re so caught up with our own thoughts and obligations that we forget to acknowledge the people around us. Take some time to slow down and interact with these people.
When you acknowledge others, you make them feel important. You also enhance your own experience. This small talk can turn an everyday activity into a memorable exchange.
Say “Please” and “Thank You”
Although we’re all taught to use our manners as kids, it seems they’re easily forgotten in our day-to-day lives. When you say “please,” you’re making a polite request rather than a demand or expectation. It sounds better and will be received better as well. When you thank someone, you make them feel valued and appreciated. Even if others don’t always say it to you, set a positive example and always say “please” and “thank you”.
Practice Random Acts of Kindness
There are lots of different ways to brighten someone else’s day: buy coffee for the person in line behind you, put some spare change in someone else’s parking meter, send a just-because card, or come up with your own idea. Random acts of kindness are inexpensive, require little effort, and can have a positive impact on someone else. Get creative and think of new ways to make someone smile.