It’s simplest and most necessary to be kind to ourselves. It’s perhaps easiest to be kind
to those we love. In the dark months of the year, showing our care can make a real
Another change, though, in past decades has been the ability of our minds to care
on a wider scale – for people we don’t know, for animals and for the environment.
There is a brilliant book by psychologist Steven Pinker called The Better Angels of
Our Nature where he explores the theory that, as children, we’re now educated to
think in a way that’s more abstract. This helps us imagine how things might be,
beyond our personal experience.
As we think beyond ourselves, this is where kindness becomes possible on a
wider scale. Maybe part of this new conscientiousness is what has led us to
care first for animal welfare and Fairtrade, and more recently wildlife, marine
creatures and the environment. It’s this feeling of connection to unknown parts of
the world that gives us the energy to protect them on a scale beyond that
of our individual lives.
Living kindly takes practice. Start with yourself, and then expand what you do to
include others beyond you, on a wider and wider scale. Here are some ideas to try:
Kindness to yourself can be as simple as a long soak in the bath on a cold day, or making time on a Sunday to be outside, go on a walk and enjoy the apricity (the warmth of the sun in winter). Most of all though, being kind to yourself means learning to set boundaries on
your time and on what you will or won’t do. The early months of the year are a good point for this, before the pace sets in again.
This can start with making a mental note to text a friend who’s been having a tough time
lately. It’s in listening with presence and remembering the stories you hear. Share
what gives you happiness - whether it's a recipe, a good book or living with less waste. You won’t always be at the same point in your journey, but keep an open mind and celebrate their
Looking back, can you remember something kind that a person did for you, even though you barely knew them? Sometimes kindness from a stranger is even more meaningful for the very distance between your lives. Can you create that memory for another person? Whether it’s starting a conversation on the train, supporting an ethical business or buying a gift for a refugee (www.choose.love), opportunities for kindness will arise. Take one and see what happens.
As we try to live ethically, we come to think our impact on the world around us. Often, it’s
in terms of reducing damage - like reducing waste or eating less meat. It can be inspiring sometimes to think of one kind, positive action you can take for nature. This could mean leaving food for birds or putting up a box for those searching for nests around now. Uncover a plant weighed down by the snow or pick up pieces of plastic on the beach. These small acts of giving simply affirm that we care. Being kind to the landscape we live in is the kindest thing we can do for ourselves.
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