"Being kind to yourself, to strangers, to those you love, to the world - everyday, at every opportunity - will make you happier and more connected to everything and everyone than you have ever been" - Bernadette Russell, The Little Book of Kindness
As my friend sat having her vitals checked by an ambulance medic, I stood nearby speaking to a young woman about her new university course and the car she was trying to sell to help support herself through student life. The same car that my unstable, diabetic, and only-slightly-tipsy friend had spent the past 45 minutes slumped in. Fortunately, the friendly medic had by then assured me that my friend would be fine, and I felt at ease enough to focus on thanking the kind people who had cut short their quiet evening out to help a group of young women who others might have dismissed as just having drunk too much.
The young woman and her father had been concerned after seeing my friend's condition, and had immediately jumped in to help when we mentioned her diabetes. The kindness of these strangers lead to my friend's fast recovery, but also to new friendships; after a chat, I offered to show the woman around her new university, where I'm also studying, and we've kept in contact since.
We all have stories like this, stories that restore our faith in humanity, and in ourselves.
During times of tragedy or difficulty, we see people and communities rally together, and rescue workers risk their own safety, all selflessly caring for those in need. We can feel immense compassion, reacting instinctively to help others in difficult situations, so why are we so often disconnected from each other in everyday life?
In today’s tech-heavy world, we are bombarded with negativity in the media making it easy to believe that there's more bad than good in the world. This constant negativity skews our collective and individual perspectives of reality, and has worrying effects on our mental health and the way we behave towards each other. That’s why it’s more important than ever to look for opportunities to show kindness, and to acknowledge the kindness of others. When we do this, we create connection between ourselves and others, says Bernadette Russell in her book, ‘The Little Book of Kindness’. The best thing about kindness is that one act can inspire a ripple effect of good deeds, thoughtful gestures, and heart-warming sentiments. So, despite often telling ourselves we can’t single-handedly change the world, we can, even if it's just by starting with little acts of kindness towards those around us everyday.
Kindness starts at home
We can easily forget to be kind to ourselves, or feel guilty when we prioritise our own happiness. But in order to spread happiness, we need to cultivate it in ourselves first. When we look after our own body and mind, we’re in the best position to help others. We can start by flipping the script on our notoriously harsh inner critic and practice talking to ourselves as we would talk to a friend: with patience and compassion. Rather than overly-critical and berating, an encouraging, loving internal voice can give us motivating pep talks, acknowledgements of our efforts, and reminders that we’re actually pretty bloody awesome, just when we need it.
Regular exercise, a healthy diet, enough good sleep...you know the drill. Such self-care is the most basic act of kindness to ourselves that a lot of us are too often guilty of neglecting. Take care of your body, do things you love, defend your boundaries, and put yourself first sometimes. You're important too!
Share the love
Have you noticed how being kind makes us feel good about ourselves? Bernadette Russell explains that acts of kindness towards others increases the levels of dopamine and oxytocin in our brains, giving us a natural high and reducing our blood pressure, making kindness quite literally good for our hearts! So, smile at a passer-by, celebrate a friend’s small achievement with them, offer help to your elderly neighbour, post a positive review of a small business, and share a nice thought you have about a loved one. Brighten someone’s day and feel that instant good karma!
Kindness makes the world go round
While we make the world a better place with one kind act at a time, we need to also remember to show the same consideration to the planet that we share. Living a sustainable, ethical lifestyle is one of the biggest acts of kindness anyone can do for themselves, for others now and in the future, and for all fellow living creatures.
What heart-warming stories of kindness can you share? Inspire and uplift us in the comments!
This post is by Kirsten Mackay. Kirsten is studying English at Cardiff University and lives in South Wales with her young son. Kirsten has joined the Authentic House team on work experience and is interested in kindness in particular as the start to sustainable living.
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