Monthly Archives: June 2016

What’s in it for me? The transformative power of kindness and its inextricable link to long-term happiness Part Two

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Last week we explored the health benefits of kindness. This week we examine the different types of kindness and how to foster greater kindness within.

 

Types of kindness

 

Kindness can be either spontaneous or planned. Spontaneous kindness usually results from a need we see in others in the moment, like offering to carry an old ladies shopping bags when we can see she is struggling or asking a friend who looks upset if she wants to talk or if there’s anything we can do to help. In any given day there are many opportunities to show spontaneous kindness. Once we consciously look for these opportunities and act upon them when they arise, we develop a deeper sense of fulfillment and happiness in life.

 

Likewise kindness can also be planned. For example, for my parents 40th anniversary I sent them on honeymoon as they had never had one when they first got married. This was a meticulously planned event but nevertheless it was an act of kindness. The joy I felt in knowing that my parents had a luxury trip away – the type of holiday they would never have planned for themselves – was immense and made me feel incredibly happy.

 

How to foster greater kindness within

 

Empathy

 

Try to see things from others perspectives and understand that we are all united in so far as we all endure struggles and battle with our fears. If you don’t feel empathic towards others initially you can prompt loving feelings by being kind first, as often when we are kind, feelings of empathy naturally follow.

 

Be kind to yourself

 

Remember that you are just as worthy as everyone else. Take time to practice being kind to yourself too. Often this involves dismissing negative thinking and working on your self-esteem. If you find that you are continually failing to be kind to yourself, read my article on self-esteem and my more advanced article on self-compassion.

 

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What’s in it for me? The transformative power of kindness and its inextricable link to long-term happiness Part One

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 

“Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.” Anthony Robbins

 

Growing up I was very fortunate that my mother had taught me the importance of kindness from an early age. She always said that it is more important to be kind than liked, and, as I matured, I’ve realized how right she was.

 

In the early nineties when I was twelve years old I went on holiday to Durban, South Africa, to visit my mom’s family. One hot and humid summer’s day I was standing in the driveway of my grandmother’s house talking with my dad.

 

As my dad and I chatted away, an African man walked by on the pathway at the foot of the driveway. He was wearing a grey suit and had on an old fashioned nineteen fifties hat. As he walked by the front of our house he noticed us and stopped. He looked at us and gave us a wide genuine smile and then slowly lifted his hat and lowered it to his chest to say hello.

 

I was so taken aback that this elderly man, someone who for all intense purposes I should have been paying respect to, had shown such kindness to me, someone he didn’t even know, despite his countries racist history when it would have been quite understandable had he hated whites for what they had caused his race to endure.

 

In shock at the genuine kindness he extended to me and humbled by his gentle and sincere soul, I had only just digested what had happened by the time the man had continued to walk on. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by love for him and so saddened at him having experienced the horrid apartheid regime.

 

I started to cry uncontrollably and plead with my dad to invite him into the house for coffee but by that time he was all but gone. I like to think he is in heaven now, though I am saddened by the thought that he possibly never knew what a profound and lasting impact he had on me.  His amazing kindness towards me and his sincere smile will stay with me forever.

 

Although I can’t claim to have shown an act of kindness of the same magnitude as that elderly African man, I like to think I have followed in my mother’s footsteps. I buy food for the homeless, I help write my friends resumes and I give money to causes that I care about.

 

Ok, but what is kindness exactly?

 

Often kindness is very hard to define as it can be so many things. The Oxford dictionary lists it as ‘The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate’, the Your dictionary explains it as ‘The act of being warm or caring in spirit’ and the Urban dictionary defines it as ‘The act of going out of your way to be nice to someone or show a person you care’. To me, kindness is a combination of all of these, it is someone extending genuine understanding and compassion towards another and then expressing this concern through gentle, thoughtful acts.

 

The health benefits of kindness

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Work Your Way To A Happier Life by Doing My Kindness Challenge

 

 

When I first wrote this months series I was so inspired by the idea of giving away your favorite book on public transport with a note I decided to embark on my very own kindness project. My favorite book had been Lovely Bones for years because it spoke of the strength of the human spirit and the journey we all go on to be at peace with ourselves and our circumstances. I carefully crafted a kindness pack, it had an introduction saying what had inspired me to do the kindness project, a review of the book, the book itself, this months kindness article and a request the reader passed on a kind act. I then placed it in a clear A3 envelope with glitter writing on the front saying ‘Psssst, I’m a gift, read me’.

 

I did thirty packs in total to give away to those who showed kind acts or left for members of the public to find. I’ll never forget a wonderful girl who wrote on my Facebook page that she had discovered her pack on Saturday morning and read the entire book during the weekend. She had said that as a result of reading the book she was reevaluating her life and going to make some positive life changes. She even said that she was inspired to do a kindness project of her very own. To say I was touched was an understatement, to me this made it all worthwhile.

 

In the spirit of kindness this month I am going to do something different. There will be three kindness project options to choose from depending on how much time you want to commit to your very own kindness project. Remember, kindness is inextricably linked to long-term happiness and the greater the challenge, the better the rewards. Please see below and choose which kindness project you would most like to embark on…

 

Small project: Do the Monday series post exercises each week

Medium project: Do Tues, Weds Thurs post kindness challenges

Big project: Do a full thirty day kindness project, created in part or entirely by you!

 

Wishing you all a wonderful month full of happiness!

 

x X x Jenny x X x

What’s the kindest thing someone has ever done for you? How did it make you feel?

The kindness I have received in the past has touched me greatly, even to this day I remember that African man who greeted me at the bottom of my grandmother’s driveway when I was just a child.

 

How about the greatest act of kindness you have received? Can you recall a time that stands out and still touches you?

 

Please spend just a few moments sharing your story with our community, your story has more power than you realize – someone who desperately needs to be reminded the world can still be a kind place may well be touched by your story.

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