November 13th is #WorldKindnessDay! In a world that tends to prioritize news stories of the negative variety rather than their less attention-grabbing, more positive counterparts, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on simple reminders of how we can all be kinder to ourselves and others. The first step to making our world a better, kinder place is to look in the mirror.
Give people the benefit of the doubt
It’s really easy when someone cuts you off in traffic that that person is just rude, and not that they may have an excuse (like rushing to the hospital for the birth of a child, or visiting a loved one in serious medical trouble). Our brains do not immediately take into account situational factors in the same way we do when considering our own choices. If we fail a test, it’s not unusual to blame the test format, lack of sleep, argument you had with your partner the night before, or lack of a proper breakfast rather immediately deciding you're just incompetent. We do this to cut ourselves some slack and mediate some of the guilt and shame that may be simmering just below the surface. While we can’t possibly know what someone else is going through without asking, we can hold the same amount of space and compassion we often do for ourselves instead of immediately assuming a one-time behaviour indicates poor character. Try to check the automatic stories you tell yourself and hold some more space for kindness, patience, and empathy.
*This is not the same, however, as repeatedly letting others violate your boundaries when you’ve communicated them clearly and set expectations in the past.
Name 2 things you love about yourself
When we’re feeling down, it’s easy to let our insecurities and stressors dominate our thoughts. Our brain is designed to pay more attention to negative information than positive, after all. This means that we have to be more intentional about praising ourselves and recognizing our strengths with gratitude. Take a moment to think about a couple things you love and are thankful for about yourself, and see your mood shifts (bonus: often this helps you be nicer to others, too!).
Compliment someone you wouldn’t normally
Whether this is a coworker, family member, or the cashier at the grocery store - going just this tiny bit out of your way to pay someone a compliment can be hugely rewarding. It also makes us feel good to make others feel good (humans are pro-social and wired for connection and collaboration!). Bonus points if you know this person decently well enough to be able to provide a meaningful compliment not based on appearance, such as “I love the enthusiasm you always have for new challenges!” or “you are so good at defusing complex problems and making people feel heard.” If it’s a stranger, appearance-based compliments are typically easier but just as effective in boosting someone’s mood and making the world just that .01% kinder.
Leave a nice review for a local business
Have a tailor you rave about your friends to? Or a new restaurant around the corner with the friendliest staff you’ve ever met and yummiest pasta you’ve ever had? Tell them about it! Show your appreciation and nurture your community’s connection. Make someone’s day by showing your appreciation for their presence and effort. This helps us too at the end of the day - the more loyalty an establishment has, the longer they’ll stick around.
Offer to help someone with something you normally wouldn’t
If you can make the extra effort to carve out an extra few minutes to offer your help to a friend, family member, or coworker - do it! It goes so far in making them feel appreciated and can really help to alleviate stress in significant ways. Often we feel we can’t help others because we are strapped for time ourselves and can barely keep up with our own responsibilities, however it often takes less effort on our part than we think to make a huge difference.
Incorporate one random act of kindness into your day
Whether that's leaving your server a particularly generous tip, offering to mow the lawn of your elderly neighbour, dropping off a hot meal to a friend you know is struggling with depression and unable to cook, or simply holding open the door for someone at the grocery store. Try to go out of your way for someone more often than not - it takes little effort and can change the tone of your whole day.
We don’t want November 13th to be the only day we show kindness and compassion to ourselves and those around us - use this date as a simple reset and reflection point to bring more intentional kindness forward into the end of 2021 and beginning of the new year.