How to cultivate kindness in a world that sorely needs it

Maybe you are one of those people who wish that “killing them with kindness” was an actual thing. It is a time of high passions and short fuses, and for this reason kindness is something that needs to be cultivated right now. Here are four takeaways to jumpstart the joy of generosity.

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Make it a habit

As Houston, TX family therapist Elizabeth Cobb says, kindness is a choice, and it is often not a reflex. Leaning into a spirit of giving may be gifting someone with a smile, delivering someone a home cooked meal, or reaching out to a family member with whom you have lost touch.

I have a friend in New Mexico who for years has been sending postcards to friends old and new. It has become a habit and Jennifer told me that it has also come to mean a lot to her — as much or more than it might for the recipients.

“I send postcards to my friends to brighten their day with a surprise in the mailbox, I compliment individuals on something, like a tie, earrings, t-shirt — or now a fancy patterned mask,” she said. “I also send random texts to friends which makes them feel loved and brightens a day which might need some brightening.”

If you are stuck, start with a kindness calendar or a kindness journal that comes pre-loaded with out-of-the-box ideas — like giving a child a book that you loved from your childhood or leaving an upbeat note in a reusable grocery bag at the store. The more you do, the more you will want to do.

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Slow down to nurture it

When you are frazzled and stressed out, it is an added challenge to look outside yourself to others. Cobb says that giving yourself that beat to slow down and contemplate allows you to really choose your response to what is going on in your life, and to decide on kindness — instead of being reactionary.

“There’s an ancient meditation called the Metta Prayer, which focuses on loving-kindness for others and self,” Cobb says. “It’s very peaceful and nurtures feelings of benevolence and serenity. When we focus on kindness, when we adopt kindness as a daily mantra, we live kindness. We have better relationships and a healthier self.”

My friend Lori said that she strives to make kindness a way of being, rather than an action or activity.

“Smiling is the best form of being kind for me,” she said. “Always knowing that anyone I run into can be having the worst day ever, [so] no judgements or criticisms.”

Make it personal

Oftentimes it is easiest to be kind to the people who you already know and like. It does not have to be a stranger to count for kindness. And you are likely more aware of what your friends and loved ones need right now.

A friend’s former co-worker lost her husband suddenly so when another co-worker organized a fundraising campaign, it was a no brainer to donate to it.

“Shortly after that she had to have open heart surgery and I could not believe that she was going through something else so serious so soon,” Loida said. “I [ordered] some ready-made meals for her and had them delivered to her using Instacart once she was home. It is the little things that we can do for someone that can mean a lot to them.”

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Assume the best of people

It may be a Herculean task in a contentious election year, but as Cobb notes, the heart of kindness is generosity — and generosity also means assuming the best of people and operating from a compassionate framework.

“When we adopt the belief that people are coming from a place of good will, it nurtures patience and gentleness in our interactions with others,” she says.

And this includes care and compassion for the self, which for many is the hardest of all.

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve upped my self-care game,” Cobb says. “As I share with my clients, one’s level of self-care must correspond with your stress level.”

So, when you send your friend some flowers, throw in a bouquet for you too.

Just started two publications. Let the all-nighters commence! www.betsydenson.com. Twitter: @BetsyDenson Facebook: @BetsyDensonWriter

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