Tips for spreading kindness
“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” It’s one of my favorite quotes. I even bought a shirt with the quote.
I’ve been thinking about kindness a lot the past few months. I was the recipient of a lot of kindness during my recent breast cancer journey. From receiving funny cards to surprise gifts in the mail to meals to walking the mall with me to biking companions to so much more. I am incredibly grateful for every act as each touched my heart.
Being kind to others is a natural part of my life. I was raised by two parents who shared love, hugs and kindness to others – family, friends, strangers. It was nothing for my parents to snatch multiple tags off the Giving Tree at church, deliver coffee and food to the homeless people in Detroit, take food to someone recovering from an illness or invite the entire high school basketball team for pizza.
There are lots of different psychological and physical studies highlighting the benefits of being kind. Some outcomes include more happiness, healthier heart and lower blood pressure, happier in relationships (friendships, family, intimate) and reduction in stress. I personally think all those benefits make for a happier society. And, man, do we need more kindness and happiness in our society.
Spreading kindness sometimes takes us out of our comfort zone, especially when someone is behaving rudely or being not at all kind to others. People needing to the center of attention, always right, interrupting conversations and similar make me crazy and even I struggle at times to stay patient and kind. I know their behavior is not about me but their own insecurities, bad day, whatever. So be kind to the people who annoy you, the wait staff who are slow or distracted, the receptionist simply answering the phone, the impatient person who might say something unkind. It’s not to excuse bad behavior but to confront negative emotions and actions with kindness. Maybe we can break the cycle, especially if someone is having a rough day.
Being kind can be contagious. Helping others might inspire them to pay it forward. Here are some simple ways to spread kindness:
- Smile at a stranger. How easy this is to do and what a difference it can make to someone’s day!
- Send a card or note to someone via mail. I certainly help keep our post office in business because I love sending cards and notes to people, from family to friends to my elected representatives and more! I too love getting surprises in my mailbox (and not bills)!
- Bring bagels or donuts to the office for your staff/coworkers.
- Offer to help someone who needs assistance, whether biking, hiking, at a store, wherever.
- Send a genuine thank you note to someone who assisted you who may not expect it – I sent a thank you to one of my legislator’s staff who helped me schedule a meeting and get pertinent information to my rep. Without her assistance, my concern might not have reached my rep in a timely manner. The cool thing? I noticed my thank you note tacked to the staff person’s bulletin board when I visited the office.
- Give a hug to a friend or family having a rough day.
- Say please and thank you – and mean it!
- Offer to pick up someone on your way to an event.
- Volunteer at a charity.
- Buy flowers or plants for someone. One of the most touching gifts I received this spring was from my best friend who insisted on purchasing bright flowers for the pots lining my walk and deck. Every time I pull up to my house, I smile at the bright, welcoming, happy flowers greeting me. As she knew that I would.
- Hold the door for the person behind you. Hold the elevator door too.
- Learn to listen to someone who might need an ear or shoulder to lean on. Listen well, don’t feel the need to share your stories, be there without judgement.
- Share a recipe.
- Let others help you too. This is their way of performing an act of kindness and you both benefit.
- Host a dinner for friends or family as a way to bring special people together for good company.
- Don’t have time for a long phone call? Sometimes a quick text message saying hello/thinking of you can bring a smile to someone’s face. I so appreciated any type of message during my recent cancer treatment – knowing people were thinking of me reminded me that I wasn’t fighting alone.
- Give a compliment to a stranger.
- Don’t engage in negative talk. It’s easy to get sucked into complaints, gossip and negative conversations when everyone around you is doing it. But when I catch myself getting pulled in, I either excuse myself from the conversation (sometimes just walking to the bathroom to take some deep breaths!) or try to insert positive points to help switch the flow of energy to positive.
- Learn to say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you”…and mean it. It’s a win for everyone.
- Offer to pick up something for someone you know is feeling a bit overwhelmed (cancer treatment, new job, new baby, new home, etc), whether groceries, dinner, kids, etc.
- Download a wish list of needed items for a local charity or school and donate some items to help. I like taking my little nieces and nephew shopping with me to reinforce the benefits of helping others, and how fortunate we are.
- Leave a surprise note for someone. I often stick little notes and mini bags of fruit snacks under the pillows of my nieces and nephew. They get a kick out of finding the treats!
I could list a lot more ideas but hopefully you get the point that spreading kindness can be easy and cheap. What ideas do you have to spread kindness? What act of kindness are you going to do today? Share in the comments if you want!