Kindness is the most powerful, least costly, most underrated agent of human change.
It’s easy to think the world has gone crazy. Certainly, there have been other times in history when people seem to have lost their sensibility, but we have no shortage of irrational, angry folks all over the world right now. It’s hard to read the headlines of the daily news, much less digest the details.
It’s time to break the crazy cycle. We can do it through kindness.
Kindness is Powerful
Think about how you feel when you do something kind for others. It’s typically a boomerang effect; you intend to help someone out and you are the one that ends up with the boost. Some of this feeling is attributed to the release of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone not only enhances emotional well-being, but has a “cardioprotective” effect by lowering blood pressure. Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California reports that performing acts of kindness at least twice per week results in increased optimism and overall positivity. She has found that not only is frequency important, but creating a variety of behaviors helps maximize happiness.
Research by Paul Zak, founder of Claremont Graduate University Center for Neuroeconomics, proved that the brain releases dopamine when you are doing something positive for others. This hormone creates a warm glow that some refer to as a “helper’s high”.
When you reach out to others and share your time, money or efforts, you make a positive difference in the lives of others. You can change your life through exercising the power of kindness.
Kent Keith’s words exhorting people to “be kind anyway” were made famous when Mother Teresa had them painted on the wall at an orphanage in Calcutta. Mother Teresa is often credited as the author. She certainly lived these words:
People are unreasonable, illogical, self-centered
…love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives
…do good anyway.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies
…be successful anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow
…do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable
…be honest and frank anyway.
People love underdogs but follow only top dogs
…follow some underdog anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight
People really need help but may attack you if you try to help
…help people anyway.
If you give the world the best you have, you may get kicked in the teeth
…but give the world the best you have
Orly Wahba, a middle school teacher with a message, started the Life Vest Project (because kindness keeps the world afloat). Simple actions, passed from one thoughtful person to the next, can change your family, your office, your community, and beyond. Don’t ever under-estimate the power of your words and actions.
It’s one thing to talk about being kinder, but talk without action is a vapor.
Acts of Kindness
The concept of random acts of kindness is not a new one. Kindness is accessible to absolutely everyone. Here are a month’s worth of ideas to start a revolution in your world:
1. Buy a small umbrella to give to someone who needs it next time it’s raining.
2. Put a surprise note in an unexpected place for a family member mentioning something you love about them. It might be taped to the bathroom mirror, tucked into their iPad, in their lunch bag… have fun with it.
3. While you’re out, compliment a parent on how well-behaved their child is.
4. When someone is talking bad about someone, be the one to interrupt with something nice to say.
5. Buy a homeless person some food. (You could put together a couple of bags of nonperishable snacks to have handy for this if that works better for you.)
6. Each time you get a new piece of clothing, donate an old one.
7. Compliment someone to their boss.
8. Smile at someone on the street, just because.
9. Call your mom or dad to tell them you love them.
10. Cut someone some slack.
11. Let someone into your lane. They’re probably in a rush just like you.
12. Let the person behind you in line at the store go ahead of you.
13. Write someone a note. On real paper. And mail it!
14. Be the person who puts money in the tip jar at the coffeeshop. (Fewer people tip than you’d think!)
15. Bring in fun office supplies to liven up the workday for everyone.
16. Give someone a hug.
17. Clean up a mess that isn’t yours.
18. Let them have the parking space.
19. Relay an overheard compliment.
20. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
21. Try to make sure every person in a group conversation feels included.
22. Write a nice comment on your friend’s blog.
23. Play board games with senior citizens at a nursing home. Sixty percent of them will never have a visitor during their stay.
24. Babysit for a single mom for free.
25. Say thank you to a janitor or bathroom attendant.
26. Help someone struggling with heavy bags.
27. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.
28. Offer to return a shopping cart to the store for someone loading groceries in their car.
29. Give someone your pack of gum.
30. Give a cold (or warm) drink to someone working outside.
31. Tweet, Text, or Facebook message a genuine compliment to one person today.