What is kindness?
kindness can be seen as “the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate”. Interestingly, the ‘and’ indicates that all three of those conditions are required for kindness to be present. So, one can be friendly and yet not kind, or both generous and considerate but not kind. Perhaps it’s when we become aware of all three conditions being present that we feel for ourselves the pleasure of real kindness.
Why is kindness important?
When we practice kindness either to other people or towards ourselves we can experience positive mental and physical changes through lowering stress levels and increasing the body’s production of feel-good hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. Being kind helps boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure and reduce stress and anxiety.
The great thing is that it isn’t difficult to be kind. As the Dalai Lama said, ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible’.
How do we show kindness to others?
Showing kindness to others does not have to mean doing something big or life changing. Often it’s the smallest acts of kindness that can have the most impact. A moment of support in a time of need, a quiet word of encouragement, a helping hand to carry a heavy load, or just a smile that says ‘I see you’ can make a world of difference. Whatever the act itself, it’ll be underpinned by four principles:
Awareness – we must be aware of the opportunity to be kind. We can’t recognise the need if we are completely absorbed in our thoughts, our own world, or our on-line alter egos.
Non-judgment – we must be prepared to suspend judgment if we want to be truly kind. It’s not for us to judge the good or bad, right or wrong of another person’s situation. It’s only for us to recognise there is an opportunity for us to be kind.
Action – we must act in a friendly, generous and considerate manner to the person in front of us. Awareness without action can’t be kind.
Unconditional – being kind means offering kindness without conditions or expectation of reward. The real reward for a kindness is in the inner positivity, rather than any external reward or recognition.