Practicing Gestures of Kindness

At times when life seems dull or dreary—or we find ourselves feeling weighed down by the heaviness of our to-do lists—engaging in an act of kindness can offer a much needed reconnection to goodness and lightness.

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5) Listen Well As a counselor, I notice how hungry people are to be heard—how they long to be sincerely asked how they’re doing and to have someone witness the stories of their life from the day or week. A great act of kindness we can offer others is to listen, fully and attentively, as they’re speaking to us. We can also look for opportunities to invite others to speak about the things that really matter to them.

6) Be Respectful While most of us are raised to think about being respectful to people in positions of authority—our parents and teachers and bosses—we can forget to acknowledge the people we encounter in our everyday life who are also worthy of thoughtfulness and respect. The next time a cashier is ringing up your purchase, a person is bagging your groceries, or a service provider comes to your home, consider offering them the very best of your respectful behavior. Notice if and how this changes the quality of the interaction.

7) Give a Hug Whether it’s with our child, a good friend, or someone we know who’s having a hard day, there’s nothing like a genuine hug to offer support and care. Sometimes we can get out of the habit of giving hugs, and forget the sweetness found in offering someone an embrace. Who should you give a hug to today?

8) Practice Self-Kindness We can forget to include ourselves in the kindness equation— to see that we too deserve to receive our own compassion and generosity. It can help to imagine what it would look like for us to treat ourselves kindly, just as we would treat someone we care for. Possibly, this means encouraging ourselves when we’re struggling, complimenting ourselves when we’ve done well, giving ourselves a break when we’ve made a mistake, or offering ourselves a small treat after a long day of work. The more we keep kindness on our radar, the easier it is to gravitate toward these responses in day-to-day life. Most of us are naturally drawn to offer kindness throughout our days, but it can’t hurt to periodically remind ourselves that this option exists—and that there’s always a benefit to brightening up the lives of those around us.

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Karen Horneffer-Ginter
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