6 Movements Toward Kindness

Photo via Shutterstock

Photo via Shutterstock

Many of us learned the staples of kindness in kindergarten: put others’ interests before one’s own, speak positively about other people, refrain from yelling or name-calling and share; but do these things really make us kind? In comparison to some people it does, but have I also cut someone off driving in the last month or let the door go because the person behind me was just a step too far to hold it? For sure. Have I diverted my eyes instead of embracing the chance to smile at a stranger? Absolutely. If we’re honest, most of us could identify these times, but the abstract idea of “being more kind” in our own lives isn’t something we often stop to think about, and when we do, it can be overwhelming.

At my yoga teacher’s recent dharma talk, we were asked to close our eyes and remember a time that we hurt someone- whether inadvertently or purposely. We were not to judge ourselves, but simply notice what the memory did to our physical bodies. Almost immediately my breath shortened, my shoulders and jaw tightened, and I got that awful sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. She then told us to let go of the memory and recall a time that we did something kind– either for a stranger or a loved one– and bring awareness to that effect on our bodies instead. This time, my breath deepened, shoulders relaxed and body became lighter and more expansive. Every action in our days, both big and small, have a tremendous effect on our overall wellness.

Increasing your kindness rating is a lot like learning to run– it takes time, training, and practice. With these six steps, you’ll be running a kindness marathon in no time. Here are six movements toward kindness:

1. {Crawl Forward} Be Kind to You
I could instantaneously rattle off a list about the things I’d like to improve about myself, but I’d have a bit more trouble telling you the things I like. Take the time to make a list of the things you love about you. Examine it and make a point to bring those things to the forefront of your mind. Wake up each morning, look in the mirror, and remind yourself of one of the things. Say it aloud because you deserve to not only think it, but to hear it. Cultivating kindness in our lives begins with being nice to ourselves first.

2. {Baby Step} Start With a Smile
Research shows that each time we smile our brain releases happiness hormones, which have a direct effect on our stress levels and wellbeing. Make an effort to smile more. Increase your kindness rating by making eye contact and smiling at two strangers per day. You’ll not only be increasing your own happiness, but chances are that stranger will return your smile and you’ll be helping to increase theirs as well.

3. {Take a Stroll} Say “Thank You”
Scientific gratitude expert, Robert Emmons, spent years studying how gratitude positively affects health and happiness. His work proves that being grateful creates physical, psychological and social benefits. Taking time to thank someone not only makes them feel appreciated but provides you with a chance to reflect on a reason you have to be grateful. Watch how this small action spreads positivity in the world around you like wildfire!

4. {Speed Walk} Offer a Compliment
You never know whose day you might make with a genuine compliment. Psychology Today calls them “little gifts of love” and in giving them, you'll notice the positive attributes of those around you. It’s easy to notice that a person’s outfit doesn’t match, but if you instead notice how great their new haircut looks, your focus moves toward the good and away from the bad.

5. {Go For a Jog} Donate Time
Time is arguably one thing many of us could use more of, and giving it to others is a giant step towards increasing kindness. Spend a weekend day volunteering at a local shelter or charity or, for those who may not have that availability, get creative: let someone merge into your lane during a traffic jam instead of cutting them off; allow the person behind you in line to go in front of you; stop to give someone directions even though you’re in a rush. These small things only take a few minutes from your life, but they can help another person tremendously.

6. {Full on Sprint} Practice One Good Deed A Day
I recently purchased the book, One Good Deed A Day which offers 365 simple ideas for increasing kindness daily. Suggestions like, "write a nice little note on the check to your server" and “ask your partner about his day and listen” make it easy to start cultivating kindness. Pledging to do a good deed every day is certainly a big a commitment, so go back to the baby steps and vow to be kind to yourself even if you miss a day of being kind to other people. My guess though, is that once you start inching toward kindness, it will start to become part of each step you take! - Kate Lombardo