In Melbourne last week an Uber driver and I got into a conversation about kindness. The driver lives in Mount Isa, and his local facebook group was talking about a homeless man with no shoes. My driver, instead of ’talking about it’, took old boots down to the man, got the local restaurant to cook him a meal, called the police to check on him, and got him into a shelter.
I can’t stop thinking about the kindness of this gesture, and how important it is right now, because in a few days’ time, on Thursday 14 September, it’ll be RUOK day.
RUOK Day reminds us to reach out to others and ask if they are OK, to listen to what they say, encourage or support them, and check in with them from time to time. In other words, RUOK Day asks us to be kind, kinder than we usually are.
All this got me thinking about kindness, what it is and how to do it – and why. So I beavered away online and talked to experts, and here is what I learned:
What is kindness?
Piero Ferrucci, in The Power of Kindness, sees kindness as being about caring genuinely for others around you, wanting the best for them, and recognising in them the same wants, needs, aspirations and even fears that you have too. He says kindness is warm, resilient, patient, trusting, loyal and grateful.
In summary, kindness is when you care for all beings, without thought of your own reward.
How to be kind
In an interesting blog, Marcia Sirota says kindness emerges from someone who’s confident, compassionate and comfortable with themselves. A kind person is loving and giving out of the goodness of their heart.
She compares being kind with being ‘nice’ which she says comes from people trying to please, often from a base of inadequacy and need for approval, and which can lead to resentment and bad feelings all round.
So the first rule of kindness is to be kind to yourself and to know (and set) your own limits and needs. Kind people, the argument goes, don’t set out to please. They’re happy to begin with, and add to their happiness through acts of generosity and altruism.
It’s hard to be kind. We lead such busy lives that sometimes, frankly, we’re out of kindness practice. One way to rejig this is to learn kindness from others. We’ve all had people change days, or even lives, by being kind to us, and thinking about what they did, and copying them, is a good way to start.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, keep going, because research tells me kindness is a habit. Small acts of kindness grow, and, like more formal kindness such as volunteering, they make their givers as happy as their receivers.
Expand your circle of kindness. In her book Choosing Happiness, Stephanie Dowrick points out it’s easy to be kind when we offer ‘patronising kindness’ – that is, kindness to people we feel are truly in need, or to family and friends. It’s harder to be kind to people whose values we don’t share, or who we think may not deserve kindness.
And most of all, don’t assume people can cope without your support or kindness. Everyone has a story and many people hide a need for help under a myriad of masks and behaviours. Finally, the experts say, try not to judge people. Instead of spending time being critical, give people the benefit of the doubt, and don’t expect perfection.
Kindness and wellbeing
Now for the good news. As I said before, kindness leads to happiness. And because kindness and happiness are positive states of mind, they lead in turn to improved psychological wellbeing for both giver and receiver. Thus kindness is a powerful wellbeing tool, not to be discounted.
And besides, think of the karma points kindness adds to your wellbeing both in this life and the next one....
Which brings me back to RUOK Day. Go to the website for more information, for ‘how to’ tips and for packs and products which will help you, and those around you, make not just one day or one month, but the whole year better.
Have you heard about WayAhead Workplaces? They’re a network of organisations interested in and committed to workplace health and wellbeing. WayAhead Workplaces hold quarterly meetings, send out a bi-monthly e-newsletter and offer information and resources for companies to find out the best way to address workplace health and wellbeing issues.
Here’s a wonderful article by Frank Robson, on how living hard caught up with him. It involves sailing, a Donald Trump mask, and a series of quotes on living life to the max.
What makes us happy? Harvard’s happiness study, which ran for 75 years, finds out the number one happiness factor.... read on!
Can we prevent dementia? Not entirely, but it seems in many cases dementia can be prevented by following a few sensible rules.
Here’s new goal for our sons. Have a look at this Steve Biddulph post, which argues that nine year old boys need to cook a family meal once a week.
What did you do for nanna’s last birthday? Here’s a glorious video of a gran going wild.