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6 Effective Ways To Bring More Kindness Into Your Life

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6 Effective Ways To Bring More Kindness Into Your Life

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 November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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