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6 Effective Ways To Bring More Kindness Into Your Life

6 Effective Ways To Bring More Kindness Into Your Life
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Kindness is becoming rare and sometimes if feels as though we live in a very hostile world. We are more connected than ever these days with social media and the 24 hour news cycle, so it is easy to become saturated with the conflict, politics, poverty and discord of the world around us. For people who work in high needs care industries; doctors, nurses, emergency service personnel, social workers, criminal lawyers; or ordinary people who care for elderly or ill family members, life can become a cycle of stress and trauma and they can begin to suffer from compassion fatigue.

Whether it is from too much exposure to ‘bad news’ or too much exposure to the suffering of people around us, we can start to show physical, mental and emotional symptoms. There’s no denying that this type of negativity is bad for our health.

However, studies have shown that kindness and generosity are not only great for our health, they’re contagious and self perpetuating.

The more people are good to one another, the more both the givers and the receivers want to do it. Furthermore, altruism and empathy have been found in species other than humans. Biological altruism, whether conscious or not, is evident in animals and insects alike, especially those that have very well organised systems, like ants, for example.

So how do we strike a balance between giving and not giving too much? How do we live our lives in a way that enhances our humanity and our altruistic nature, without letting it destroy us?

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Juliana Breines, Ph.D from the Greater Good Science Center says that there are several ways to strike that balance. We must strive to feel connected and supported with one another thereby achieving ‘attachment security’. We can also wonder at the world and universe around us: revel in nature, indulge in our humanness and what it can achieve. Take ‘awe walks’ out in nature or sit in silence in a magnificent building, walk over a long bridge, lie in a meadow and stare at the clouds.

Similarly, kindness meditation and practicing mindfulness can help us to stay in the present moment and regulate our breathing and blood pressure. We must strive to turn benevolence into a habit by participating in random acts of kindness regularly and whenever possible.

We also need to learn when it is OK to say no and when it is crucial that we are kind to ourselves first as forced kindness is abrasive and counter productive. Establishing ways to acknowledge our shared identity by, for example, putting a face to human suffering; educating ourselves about what other people experience and understanding the reality of those less fortunate will maintain our connectedness and keep us in touch with the reality of our privilege. Teaching kindness to children is another way that we can maximize mutual empathy from an early age.

Kindness doesn’t have to be exhausting or a chore. Kindness as a concept is a way to bring generosity and positivity to others as well as ourselves.

Here are 6 ways to bring more kindness into your life:

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Smile

Smile as much as you can muster. Not just at others, but also at yourself. Look in the mirror and smile. Be conscious of your facial expression regularly. Sometimes we are just concentrating or thinking and we don’t realize that we are scowling. Engage in things that make you laugh; genuinely laugh. There is nothing more satisfying than laughing hysterically at something until there are tears and everybody knows that laughter is contagious.

When you are out and about, make contact with people by projecting a happy disposition. You don’t have to look deranged to appear happy. Just make the effort and before you know it, it will become a habit. Try this experiment in the presence of children. If you smile at them, they almost always smile back. Making a concerted effort to smile will lead to feelings of contentment, which in turn makes us smile more and will attract kindness.

Give

Generosity is underrated. Give your stuff away. We all have so much junk and everything has become so disposable. Don’t try to sell old furniture or electronic devices. You’re not going to recoup much of what you spent anyway because things depreciate. Just give it away. Clothes, kitchen and electrical appliances, children’s toys: give them away for free. There are plenty of classifieds that you can access to do this. You can also give them to a number of charities who will pass them on to someone in need. Bigger things like white goods and cars can be easily passed around to family, friends and neighbors. When it’s time to replace something and you can afford to buy the new item, count your losses and give the old one away.

Also, donate to charity. Make it an annual commitment. Choose a charity or two that you feel passionately about and give them a cash donation every year. It’s tax deductible and if you do this, give yourself permission to say no to any other charities you come across that request donations.

You can’t give to every single one (by all means if you can, then do so!), but having one or two charities or not for profit organisations that you adopt – ones that you learn thoroughly about what they do and who they help, perhaps even volunteer for, will contribute to those feelings of connection that enhance our propensity to give.

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Receive

Feel good about receiving. When someone offers help, take it. When other people show concern for you and offer advice, take notice. Giving yourself permission to receive openly has benefits that we don’t often acknowledge. Being a good receiver is nurturing for you and beneficial to the giver. People feel good when they are giving, just as you want to feel good when you give, so by receiving you are promoting the cycle of kindness. We often associate receiving with guilt. We don’t feel worthy or want to immediately give in return to even the score. Don’t feel obliged to do that. Simply receive without needing to do anything in return, just say thank you. Feelings of appreciation and gratitude are ways to experience kindness that we don’t often consider.

Talk

Use your words. Don’t be afraid of confrontation or judgement. Sometimes we have valuable information that we should share and even if it isn’t received well initially, that information may help someone as an after thought. Use your intuition and share your experiences. The more we talk to people about ourselves the more we form valuable attachments with other humans. Talking to one another is an opportunity to bond and mimic emotion, which is the core ingredient for empathy.

Striking up a conversation isn’t difficult; just being friendly is all that is required. Saying hello can become very hollow. Make your greetings genuine; really ask someone how their day is going and mean it, even if you’re both in a hurry. You don’t have to tell strangers your life story, but making eye contact, projecting affection and making a true human connection with people is invaluable. Especially if you don’t feel like it. The effort is its own reward.

Listen

As much as you talk, be quiet and listen. When people open up to you or have something to say, don’t just stay quiet in wait for your turn to speak. That is not listening. Actually hear what they have to say and respond accordingly. Your turn to speak will come if the conversation is balanced and genuine and if it doesn’t maybe what you think you had to say wasn’t that important this time around after all.

When you truly listen to people you fill your being with information to last you a life time. You never know when that wisdom will come in handy. Listening also teaches us to read between the lines. When we honestly listen to someone, we don’t just hear their words; we read their body language and their facial expressions. We learn to understand that which is unspoken and that is truly listening and connecting.

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Care

Showing real affection and paying attention to people you come into contact with is something we often do only superficially. We become so absorbed in our own needs that we fail to really care about others. Often it is a genuine act of self preservation, especially if we are suffering from the aforementioned compassion fatigue. However, if we realize that caring for others is really caring for ourselves and if we understand that we are all connected, we can bring more kindness into our lives.

Stay abreast of what is going on in the world; get educated and informed. Choose wisely when it comes to sources of information and comprehend the reality of what people around the world are experiencing. Understand what your privileges are and what your obligations to other living beings and the planet ought to be. Kindness is something we can afford to give across continents, to other species and to the environment.

Kindness should become a way of life. It doesn’t mean denying our negative emotions or letting people take advantage of us. It means always having the intention to contribute something positive; sometimes even in the face of adversity. With practice, the act of kindness becomes a habit and we get stronger in the process; it teaches us to discern when it is appropriate to be selfless and when it is necessary to be selfish. If the intention to be altruistic and help others is a genuine one, then the outcome will always be constructive.

Featured photo credit: chattanongzen via shutterstock.com

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Diane Koopman

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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