While the notion of celebrating kindness may not sound as thrilling as say, a night on the town to celebrate a friend's birthday, it's one that's necessary in today's times. Let's face it, between increasing violence in the world to political debates that sometimes get downright nasty, we could use more pleasantries in our days, right?
Enter World Kindness Day, which is Nov. 13. It's a day set aside to focus on extending warmhearted acts towards others and behaving nicely, without expectation of anything in return. I know, I know, every day should be World Kindness Day. But the reality is, between an out of whack work-life balance, losing patience in traffic jams, and feeling stressed over the upcoming holiday season, smiling at a stranger is often the last thing on people's minds. So maybe we need a day to reinforce the importance of niceness, reminding us to let go of any anger and perhaps soften our too-hard exterior.
Besides, the mental and physical benefits of kindness are plenty, which should make us want to smile more and frown less. Author David R. Hamilton, Ph.D. writes that kindness has positive side effects including healthier hearts, better aging, and improved relationship bonds.
He also notes that kindness is contagious, reminding me of a recent article I wrote which explains that so too, is rudeness -- specifically, workplace rudeness. So why not opt for the feel-good contagious behavior that is kindness instead of giving in to excessive cursing, evil eye side glances, and unnecessary quips that is rudeness?
With heart health and positive vibes in mind, here then are some ideas to help spread kindness on World Kindness Day and yes -- every day.
1. Give Someone a Shout-Out
It's easy to fall into the same routine at work and in social media activities, which often involves showcasing our own successes and adventures. But why not offer some kudos to a colleague or Facebook friend instead? Tag a friend on Facebook as you recall a fun time you spent together last summer, share a family member's recipe and let others know how delicious it was, or compliment a co-worker in person on her creative idea. Encouraging words go a long way, boosting happiness and confidence in others.
2. Deliver Needed Items to an Animal Shelter
If you're an animal lover, then chances are you know of many local shelters that are in need of supplies. From blankets and toys to food and paper towels, many locations specify their needs right on down to a particular brand. Check a shelter out online or give them a call to learn what they could use more of, and then deliver what you can to the facility. Humans aren't the only ones in need of more kindness and caring actions, after all. There are also plenty of homeless and abused animals in need of more love too.
3. Call Someone You Haven't Spoken With in Long Time
Forget a text or "communicating" with someone via email. How about giving them a call? Especially if you haven't been in touch for a while, the gesture can be surprisingly pleasant. This could involve a conversation with a neighbor who lived in an area you moved away from, a childhood friend who you're primarily "in touch" with only through social media updates, or your grandmother, who lives hours away. Guaranteed, the outreach will put a smile on both of your faces.
4. Engage in Simple Gestures that Make Lives Easier
Sometimes, all it takes is something so ridiculously small to push people over the edge and make them go from having a bad day to a horrible one. We've all been there.
A filled-to-the-brim public garbage can spits out the coffee cup we just tossed inside, putting us on the verge of screaming in public over the matter.
No one bothered to put creamer in the refrigerator, so black coffee it is until you can grab some at work -- and it's enough to put you in a foul mood.
But by doing things that can help others escape such frustrations, you can make their lives easier and happier. It need not be grandiose gestures; small ones work perfectly fine.
Open the new box of creamers at work and put them on the counter, instead of leaving just one lone hazelnut flavor on the counter.
Wave your hand in front of the automatic paper towel dispenser in a restroom to save the next person a step, as minor as it is (not to mention the annoyance of water running down their wrist).
Park a few spaces over even though you could have taken that premier spot right in front of a store's doorway -- you never know who had a rough day, hardly able to muster the mental and physical strength to walk the extra distance.
The little things truly can make a difference.
5. Be Kind... to Yourself
While being nice to others is certainly beneficial, it's important not to overlook being kind to yourself. While that may sound a bit odd, it's necessary to treat yourself well, especially if you tend to always go out of your way for other people. In between running errands for an ill neighbor and helping your boss while a colleague is away on vacation, are you seeing that your needs are being met?
Take a bath (and no, a three-minute soak doesn't count), buy yourself a bunch of your favorite flowers, continue reading that interesting book (I recommend Arianna Huffington's book, "Thrive," which I've filled with highlighted marks and notes), or indulge in an extra hour's worth of your favorite television station. Be kind to yourself.
Enjoy World Kindness Day by engaging in nice actions, thinking good thoughts (of others and yes, yourself), and conveying thoughtful words. Life's too short to be cold and uncaring, and besides, niceness is something the world can use more of.