Authentic happiness is made up of a solid foundation of mindsets, practices, and habits. One of the most powerful and important is Kindness. Like gratitude, kindness is not just something you offer; it’s a state of being and an everyday way of life. This approach is one of the keys to creating your most rock solid foundations for true happiness and overall life satisfaction.
If you're feeling blah, general discontent, or a sense of overwhelm from all the negativity going on in the world around us (and who isn't feeling a bit of that these days?), there are some incredibly impactful shifts you can make to reduce or banish those feelings and return to a sense of joy and optimism.
In my book, Operation Happiness – The 3-Step Plan to Creating a Life of Lasting Joy, Abundant Energy, and Radical Bliss, there’s a section where I outline the five key happiness mindsets. Below, I’m happy to share an excerpt from that section of the book on one of those mindsets - kindness - and how it supports us in expanding the happiness in our everyday lives. This also includes a great story about a special lesson on this I learned from a stranger in a New York City elevator.
Be kind. Surround yourself with truly kind people. It sounds elementary, but I want to emphasize that the energy of kindness is vital to your happiness.
We probably all know a few good, well-meaning people who are not inherently kind. These are people to keep at arm’s length. Authentic kindness comes from the soul—from a place of compassion, thoughtfulness, selflessness, and pure love. Seek out people who are innately kind and invite them into your divine circle.
The energy created from giving or receiving genuine loving- kindness not only instantly elevates happiness, it’s also good for your health. Science has shown that regular exposure to kindness—both giving and receiving—can actually add years to your life! Not surprising, right?
You know those days when you’re just feeling extra kind and super positive for whatever reason? Spreading random acts of kindness and light, going out of your way to help people or compliment them, and receiving A-game energy in return? Aren’t those great days? Imagine what your world would be like if you deliberately created many more of those days or even lived within that vibe a majority of the time. An awesome thought, right? With conscious effort, you can! Imagine what the world would be like if more people were aligned with that mission.
Science has shown that regular exposure to kindness—both giving and receiving—can actually add years to your life.
One of the highest levels of positive energy you can cultivate is when you deliberately make the stressed checkout person at the grocery store laugh, compliment a stranger on something you know they worked hard for (a new car, a lovely outfit, a snazzy hairstyle), go out of your way to help someone when they need it, or even just smile electrically at all those in your path. You receive the benefits, and so does everyone around you.
I’m tall, so one of my favorite things to do when I’m out and about is help people reach objects that are high up on shelves at stores. Seriously, it lights me up like I popped a magic pill. Find small ways you can be of service to others or spread good feelings when you’re going about your regular days, and work at doing them until they become habit. This is a great way to increase the kindness energy in your life.
At the same time you’re looking to step up the kindness factor, look for ways you can dial back on unkindness toward others. None of us wants to admit it, but nearly all of us have sides that we’re not so proud of, especially when we feel stressed or our patience is tested. You can be a naturally kind person down to your core and still have a couple of touchy areas that could be improved upon.
When I feel mistreated in some way by a company or service, I have a tendency to direct some of my frustration at customer service people (I know I’m not alone in this). Rotten customer service is a pet peeve of mine, but the customer service reps rarely, if ever, have anything to do with it. I’ve really been working to be more mindful of this, primarily through tapping into compassion for the overworked reps, and have made significant improvement. Now, I find myself many times joking around with them and telling them their efforts are appreciated—even in the most ridiculous of customer service failures. Much better energy for all.
Be ready to make regular efforts to surround yourself with kind people. It’s a permanent work in progress. It takes mindful maintenance of boundaries and willingness to distance yourself from some people who are out of alignment. And when you meet people who radiate kindness, open your heart to learning from them. After all, kindness creates more kindness.
A few years ago on a business trip to New York City, I received a powerful lesson on the energy of kindness from a stranger in an elevator. I’d just checked into my hotel, which was very old, dark, and had a bit of a haunted feel. I wasn’t thrilled with it, but it was affordable. I clumsily stumbled into the rickety, tiny elevator, lugging all my baggage, and found myself uncomfortably close to a very tall, scruffy-looking man. Hello, awkward moment.
Elevator rides with strangers always seem to be a little weird. You’re not sure who’s going to push the button, if you should start small talk, or if you should talk at all. I was a bit intimidated by this random guy I was squashed next to that afternoon. I’d had a rough day, was worn out from travel, and this dude was huge and looked a bit like he’d just stepped out of a zombie apocalypse movie.
After a long, silent ride up dozens of floors, we reached his stop, and I pulled my wheelie bag out of the way so he could exit. As I did this, a sudden urge to speak to him came to me out of nowhere. “Have a nice day,” I blurted out. A well-meaning but mundane statement.
When he stepped out and heard me say those words, he paused, turned toward me, and smiled one of the brightest smiles I’d ever seen. As the elevator doors began to close, he replied, “Have many.”
Have many! Many nice days? Yes, please! I will, thanks! His kind response not only made my week, it taught me not to be so quick to be intimidated by people and to always lean toward connection. To let people know I see them. A beautiful lesson I received that day from a beautiful man. It was a moment in time I’ll never forget.
Give yourself and all those around you the gift of approaching life from a place of loving kindness. When love, kindness, and joy are the forces behind all we do, true magic happens.
Excerpt portion reprinted from Operation Happiness by Kristi Ling. Copyright © 2018 by Kristi Ling. By permission of Rodale Books / Penguin Random House. Available wherever books are sold. Audiobook also available wherever audiobooks are sold.