Being kind makes us feel great.

There is a mountain of research that outlines the benefits of performing acts of kindness. It improves our physical as well as our psychological health, so with anxiety and depression at an all-time high could kindness be the perfect antidote?

Escaping the depressing news cycle

Not long ago I found myself checking the BBC news website before I got out of bed in the morning. This is unusual for me and when I examined it more closely I realized that I was checking to make sure that the world hadn’t ended…. We seem to currently be in a situation where global political ‘leaders’ engage in ‘name calling’ with each other.

Remember the US, North Korean inflammatory “Rocket Man / You’re old and fat” episode? Or the seemingly constant bickering about whether we’re still friends with our European neighbours. Politicians continually undermine each other. On a daily basis. What kind of example is it for a leader to set? Is this really how we expected our chosen leaders to treat people? …Lacking isn’t it?

It’s not just the politicians either, leaders in the Corporate world are often equally inept with poor examples from the City and recently from charities too, with the very people who were paid to protect and take care of the vulnerable ending up taking advantage of them.

Is kindness perceived as weakness?

What happens when someone in power shows kindness? How are they perceived? Are they more likely to be taken advantage of?  Is it necessary to be unkind to achieve?

In organisations, leaders who practice self-awareness and managing their inner critic are able to create working environments where people can be their personal best. When people are relaxed and happier, they learn more effectively and are more resilient.  [1]

Former President Obama often spoke about treating others with kindness and respect. He is quoted as saying that “Kindness covers all of my political beliefs” [2] The Obama’s are now in talks with Netflix and considering producing shows that focus on ‘inspirational stories’. Bring it on. Let’s have some positive news for a change

 “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

I’m assuming that you don’t have the power or reach of a global politician, (if you do, all the better, this’ll work for you too!) I’m also assuming that being unkind isn’t what you wake up hoping to be on any given day, but how will being kind benefit you as the ‘provider’ of the kindness?

Why bother to be kind?

Acts of kindness accompanied by emotional warmth produce oxytocin in the brain which in turn reduces blood pressure and is consequently ‘Cardio-Protective’, so the health reasons are plentiful, but how amazing is it to be able to simply improve someone’s day? lift someone’s spirits as well as bringing yourself a little joy. We know that

kindness is cyclical – you are what you extend out to the world. Kindness is contagious – it gets passed on, it grows exponentially and it’s all positive. What’s not to love about that? What’s stopping you?

If it’s not knowing where to start here’s a list, and if you’re British and / or an introvert it’s a list of things that aren’t overly gushing, obvious, showy or extravagant.

Kindness acts to try (that aren’t too over-effusive!)

Here is my Top 10 list of ‘easily accessible’ acts of kindness that you might choose to incorporate into your day.

1.    Be kind to yourself – stop trying to be perfect- is a great place to start.

2.    Listen to someone ..really listen, not just nod and wait to speak.

3.    Give your unwanted clothes to charity.

4.    Pick up litter in your area

5.    Help a neighbour with their garden

6.    Pay someone a genuine compliment

7.    Volunteer

8.    Offer to take a photograph of a tourist

9.    Lend someone a great book

10  Chat to the checkout assistant …and really connect with them

Try anyone of them and see how it makes you feel. It’s very likely that you’ll feel more friendly, generous, considerate and inclusive. A simple act of kindness goes a long way. “By emphasizing empathy-positive norms, we may be able to leverage the power of social influence to combat apathy and conflict in new ways. And right now, when it comes to mending ideological divides and cultivating kindness, we need every strategy we can find” [3]

Let’s set the example for the politicians and leaders who’ve lost their way.

1.    Authentic Leadership Global. (Leadauthentic.com)

2.    https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/11/27/obama_kindness_covers_all_of_my_political_beliefs.html

3.    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/kindness-contagion/ Jamil Zaki – Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University

 

About the author: Janette Kirk-Willis is a Positive Psychology Coach and HR Consultant. She has coached in blue chip organisations for 25 years. She was recently a Wellbeing panel member at the ‘Women of the World Festival’ in her home city of Exeter. Positivelyflourishing.co

 

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