The dictionary defines kindness as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” We can all agree that it’s an excellent quality for a person to have, and we should all strive to be as kind as possible.
But can kindness change the world?
…Not overnight. However, being a kinder person can improve mental health, increase self-worth, create a more optimistic outlook on life, and help improve the health of the planet.
Here are four ways to show more kindness and the positive impacts that come from them:
1. Be kind to yourself
It starts at home, as they say. An excellent place to begin adding more kindness into the world is with yourself.
There is so much stress in our day-to-day lives; it’s easy to get burnt out and not pay attention to our mental health. But did you know that in 2019, 20% of adults in the US were struggling with their mental health? And in 2020, that percentage doubled! COVID lockdowns and isolation are likely to blame and have only emphasised the need to care for ourselves, now more than ever.
We are our own biggest critics. If you think you could be doing a better job at work or at school or could be making more effort with your friends, or if you obsess over your body image… stop, give yourself a break. Because telling yourself you are useless or ugly is not the way to become a better version of you and will only make you feel worse and worse as time goes on. It’s good to strive to be better, but it’s also OK (and normal) to not be perfect. Set yourself realistic goals, and if you don’t reach them, remind yourself that you’re only human. Just keep caring and keep trying.
Regular mindfulness practice is a great way to feel less stressed and happier in yourself. Try to take time every day for a short meditation to be mindful of how you’re feeling. Sit or lie in a comfortable position, scan your body for signs of stress, and try to relax your body and mind. If something is bothering you, remind yourself that it’s only temporary, and try not to let your mind fixate on this problem. Repeat a mantra for better mental health, something like “I forgive myself” or “I am strong.”
If we are kinder to ourselves, we will be happier, more confident, and less insecure. This would surely change the world for the better.
2. Be kind to those that need it most
Sometimes we need a friend to lean on, and that friend could be someone you just met.
For example, the homeless community. Homelessness has been rising for the past five years in the UK. These are people who are often struggling with mental illness, hunger, and addiction. They deserve kindness from strangers to make their lives a little easier. A cup of coffee or a sandwich is probably not a big strain on your bank account, but it could be a life-saving gesture.
If you have time, you can volunteer in soup kitchens, give out blankets, and donate clothes; these are all huge acts of kindness. Or, if you can’t do those things, a simple smile or quick conversation on your way to work can go a long way in making someone feel like they matter. Maybe simple acts like these could make a difference to mental health and suicide rates in the homeless community.
The animal community is also deserving of kindness. You can foster/adopt a pet or volunteer at shelters to walk and feed them. Another way to be kinder to our animal buddies is to eat sustainably sourced meat/fish or to cut down/cut out your meat consumption, which is kinder for the animals and will also help the planet, creating a total win-win situation!
3. Be kind to friends and family
It’s easy to assume that those closest to you know that you care… of course they do, right? Well, perhaps not. People sometimes need reminding that you are there for them and that they mean a lot to you.
Some people with depression hide it well, they put on a happy face, and their close friends and family members don’t find out the severity of their mental health issues until it’s unfortunately too late. Make sure to check in from time to time, ask how they are and if they need anything.
If we all made more effort to check in on our nearest and dearest or meet up with those we haven’t seen for a while a bit more often, the world would be a kinder place.
4. Be kind to the planet
The last step is to be kinder to this beautiful planet that we live on. The temperature is rising, the oceans are rising, and the ice caps are melting. It’s clear to see that Earth needs a lot of T.L.C.
You can be kinder to the planet in many ways; recycling, reusing, cutting out single-use plastics, cutting down on eating meat, carpooling/walking more… the list goes on. Check out these effortless green habits to make the world healthier.
Being kinder to the planet isn’t just beneficial for slowing down climate change and reducing ocean plastics. It can also have a positive effect on your mental health. “Eco-anxiety” is a fear of ecological disaster or environmental damage. People are becoming anxious and depressed about the damage that’s being done to the world. If we can improve the state of the planet, we can improve our mental health.
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” —Dalai Lama.