The 17th February 2019 is National Random Acts of Kindness Day. A day when we can shine a light on kindness and perhaps raise our awareness of its importance. But what does kindness really mean and where do we start?
There are many definitions of kindness, and even more interpretations of what being kind can mean. Does it have to be an action or can it be a way of thinking? In carrying out a daily act of kindness each day over the last 3 years, I arrived at the following definition:
“to give without exception or expectation”
I believe that kindness assists us in dealing with the amount of judgement within society, media and world around us. ‘Without exception’ means that we don’t need to judge who deserves kindness or not. So often we don’t realise what people are dealing with and it’s common to find that those who show the least kindness towards us need to receive it more than anyone else.
Genuine kindness isn’t an act of exchange hence believing we don’t need to have expectations; true kindness is given openly and without expecting anything in return.
However, there is one key thing that we must remember along side this definition – and that is where we must start with kindness, or rather who we must start with.
The Oxygen Mask of Kindness
We’ve all been on a plane listening to the safety announcement. Without fail, we are told that before helping anyone else with their oxygen mask – including our children – we must firstly put our own mask on. Kindness is exactly the same.
It must start with self-kindness meaning that the complete definition we can take forwards is “to give without expectation or expectation starting with ourselves”
This also allows us to not be taken advantage of as we stand forwards on our behalf and ask ‘is this being kind to me?’ before making decisions.
Sometimes saying NO is the kindest thing to do for yourself and therefore for others. If you give away all your energy, health, happiness, focus and time to others, you limit how long you can keep going.
What are the traits of kindness?
Many people consider kindness as being big gestures, expensive with soft and fluffy words. If we just think of ‘kindness champions’ and those that are positive examples such as Malala Yousafzai, what we begin to see is that kindness requires courage, vulnerability, effort and resilience.
So often kindness is the tougher option. It’s also something that can be free and small and yet still make a huge impact. As a simple example, writing a note to people saying what you most admire about them can be incredibly beneficial. It takes effort and a little thought – but can mean the world to the recipient.
Bringing kindness into a crazy world
We have increasing amounts of mental health issues, anxiety and stress in our societies. We know that the amount of antidepressants being prescribed also continues to rise. We are bombarded with news, media, emails, to do lists and keeping up with technology. The good news is, however, that kindness is not only a nice thing to do but can have a significantly positive impact on our health – physical and mental.
Scientific research shows that being kind reduces stress, sleeplessness and depression. It also releases oxytocin, the ‘natural love drug’, and aids digestion, reduce inflammation, reduces blood pressure and softens arteries. Kindness is quite literally good for your emotional being and physical heart.
What can we do?
Something small and simple is always my answer to this question. Even just raising your consciousness around kindness can be a start but here are 10 suggested acts you may want to consider:
- Gift a book you’ve read. Leave it in a coffee shop with a note
- Contribute to a food bank. Pop a couple of extra items in your basket for those in need
- Send a plant or flowers just because. Send someone some flowers for no reason other than you care
- Have a real conversation. Meet a friend and really listen without distraction – or phone them just for a chat
- Leave a review. Giving great feedback rather than complaining can be uplifting and beneficial
- Go for a walk. We covered ‘self-kindness’ and its importance, so take yourself outside for a walk and try and take in your surroundings (rather than looking at your phone)
- Next customer. Buy an extra item and leave it with the checkout person for the next customer – it could be a packet of biscuits or a bag for life
- Save lives. Register to be a blood and / or organ donor
- Get baking. Bake something and give it to an elderly neighbour or family member
- Send a postcard. Send someone a short note, handwritten, with what you most admire about them or thank them for something
Starting to see your world through a kinder lens can begin to have magic results. #inspirekindness
Dani joined her family’s manufacturing business temporarily having graduated from university. While looking for a real job, she quickly progressed through the family manufacturing firm which she eventually took over as part of an MBO. After 106 years, she was to face the unenviable task of closing the doors. Having been frustrated at the lack of support and understanding of the complexities of family businesses – she began to research and develop a process to inspire a change.
Dani is an award winning entrepreneur who has taken her experience and skills to build and sell a business within 3 years, launched a unique product, GLAS (Global Life Alignment System) into a global market helping entrepreneurs, teams, families, individuals and major brands with culture, brand and alignment. The same product has also been delivered to over 1500 children.
She also happens to be Mum to 3, wife to Will, has completed over 1100 daily acts of kindness leading to her launching the Inspire Kindness Movement in 2018.