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.

 

Practice, practice, practice

 

Practice makes perfect. Try to do one kind thing for someone every day and watch your happiness soar. The more kindness you practice the more kindness will become second nature to you. Also, remember to be kind indiscriminately, not just those you think need it the most or to those that are nice to you – kindness can impact even the most difficult of characters.

 

Let go of judgment

 

When we judge others we immediately inhibit our ability to be kind. Let go of the desire to criticize others when we think they are handling things poorly. After all, we can only do our best given the resources we have and the knowledge we have gained through our own unique life experiences.

 

Listen intently

 

Listen to those in need and ensure that you focus completely on what is being communicated. Giving others your undivided attention will make them feel valued. Offer genuine understanding, a hopeful and encouraging perspective and communicate how much you care.

 

Practical steps

 

You can increase your capacity for kindness by:

 

  • Sharing more
  • Smiling more often and to more people, even if they look grumpy!
  • Taking a sincere interest in people by asking questions and genuinely caring about their life
  • Being thoughtful, such as buying a small sentimental gift for someone
  • Saying thank you and practicing gratitude daily
  • Expressing your love to those you care about ‘just because’
  • Carrying out spontaneous and random acts of kindness
  • Planning to do something kind for a friend to mark a special day, show them how much you care or to say thank you

 

Stay tuned – next week we explore how to let kindness work for you so it fits in with your lifestyle.

 

Can you give an example of when either you or someone else was spontaneously kind? How did it make you feel? What of the steps in fostering greater kindness do you already do? What impact has doing these steps made? Are you inspired to do more kind gestures like smiling more this week? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Exercises:

 

  1. Make a list of kind things you could do for your family.
  2. Do one kind thing for a family member this week.

 

Further Resources:

 

‘The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life’ by Piero Ferrucci