I mean, I’m sure you already know how to be kind. I’m sure you have an understanding of what kindness is.
We do hear a lot about ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ though; maybe you’re wondering what that actually means, and how kind you actually have to be? Like, all the time? To everybody who asks you for anything?
I am in a wonderful local Facebook group where we celebrate acts of kindness – both those we do ourselves, and lovely things that others do for us. It’s a lovely place that can really help to lift the spirits. Whenever anything bad happens that hits the news, we have a flurry of raffling off – completely free – small acts of kindness. It can be baking, delivering a meal, services like cleaning or ironing, giving away clothes, toys or any unwanted gifts. Anything that anyone has to offer – and people are very creative; even if they have little to give, they think of something that makes someone else’s life slightly better.
Can this really help you, to help others? Surely it is only the people on the receiving end who benefit?
Well, “evidence shows that helping others is actually beneficial for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your emotional wellbeing and even benefit your physical health”.
Being altruistic, in short, is when you put someone else’s needs before your own. Maybe it is simply offering your seat on public transport to someone who looks like they need it more than you; or just offering to make a cup of tea for a work colleague. It doesn’t have to be a big thing; just making the world slightly better for those about you by showing care and consideration.
Now, you might be worrying about what this is going to cost you in terms of time, energy and money. If you are always helping others, you might find you have given away all your money; you have no energy left, and no time for your own family and friends. You might turn into the classic martyr: “Look at all I’ve done for you. I have nothing left. Why aren’t you grateful?”
Of course, you need to be aware of your boundaries. We can afford to be generous when all of our needs – physical, emotional, financial and so on – are met. When we have a surplus of anything, we can afford to give to others without sacrificing ourselves.
So, if you have very little money but you do have time, consider volunteering. Bake a cake for a neighbour. Offer to help someone out if they need it, or give what is needed if they ask for help. Smile at the people around you. Make conversation. There are plenty of things you can do that don’t cost a penny but show people that you care – and this will improve your own health too!
If you have enough money but are constantly working, by all means choose to give some money to charity; although this can often feel rather distant, like a salve to the conscience. What might have a greater effect on you instead, would be to open your eyes to the real people around you. Yes, you might be busy but is there anything you can do in your daily life to spread a bit of cheer? Maybe even look at the people serving you in shops as real people – share a smile and eye contact. Make conversation – do you see a pattern here? However much you have or don’t have in a material sense, you can always make small differences to the world around you.
When to say ‘No’.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I am completely human and sometimes don’t have the necessary energy or desire to be wonderfully upbeat and make everyone around me feel slightly happier. We all have off days.
If you feel like this, your needs haven’t been met – so, to try to give to others at this moment in time would put you into the realm of sacrifice. Once you are in the habit of spreading kindness, it somehow becomes easier to ask for help, so if you are feeling this way, try asking for what you need; also, try being kind to yourself.
Even if you have started the habit of spreading a bit more kindness in the world, it doesn’t mean you have to agree to everything that people ask of you! Automatically saying ‘Yes’ to everything is as unhelpful as automatically saying ‘No’ to everything. If someone asks you for something, take a moment to consider the request. Can you meet their needs as well as your own? Say ‘Yes’! If it doesn’t work for you, say ‘No’.
Above all, just be mindful of how you can make small changes around you to make the world a better place.
When we believe that our actions don’t make any difference; when we think there is too much bad in the world so there is no point trying to spread some good; we feel down, depressed, disheartened.
When we take control of the tiny influence we do have on the world, and do what we can to make the world a better place, we spread tiny ripples of goodness; we inspire others to do the same; we start to see the good in the world.
Do pop over to my Facebook page and share what kindness you have given or received!