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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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. Such gestures can help shift our train of thought to a more positive place and move our attention outside of ourselves, which can feel like a welcomed relief. Read on for eight simple ways to plant seeds of kindness in your world.
1) Offer a Blessing It’s powerful to remember that we have the ability to offer blessings to others by thinking a positive thought or sending out a prayer or aspiration for joy and ease. We don’t have to be overt with our blessings. There’s a certain sweetness that comes from simply holding someone in our thoughts for a moment as we pass them on the street or send them an email. We can send such blessings to people we care about, to people we know as acquaintances, and even to people for whom we have hard feelings. It’s a useful practice to stretch ourselves in extending our blessings to all people—wishing that they be graced with whatever is in their highest and best interests.
2) Point Out Strengths We live in a culture that often focuses more on people’s faults and limitations than on their gifts and strengths. Receiving a compliment can make a person’s day and even shift the way in which they regard themselves. We can all use such boosts from time to time, regardless of our age. If you catch someone demonstrating a skillful behavior or exhibiting a positive quality, point it out to them.
3) Write a Note of Appreciation While there are moments in life that warrant letters of complaint, there are also many moments that deserve to be acknowledged with notes of appreciation. When you receive excellent service, find yourself impressed by a company’s business practices, or feel deeply moved by a local performance—consider putting your positive experience into words and sharing them with the people who would appreciate hearing from you.
4) Forgive Someone Sometimes we can hold grudges longer than we really need to, forgetting that it’s even a possibility to forgive. Offering forgiveness frees up our emotional energy, allowing us to reclaim it and redirect it into more empowering forms. Forgiveness doesn’t need to mean that we condone what happened, rather, it means that we’re no longer interested in investing negative emotional energy in a particular person or situation. Consider if there’s someone you feel ready to forgive.
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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