We’re posting a day early this week so you won’t be caught with your knickers down tomorrow. Because why?
Well, tomorrow (November 13th) is World Kindness Day: a global 24-hour celebration dedicated to paying-it-forward and focusing on the good.
Of course we should be kind every day (kind to ourselves, kind to others, and kind to the planet), but isn’t it wonderful that there’s one day a year dedicated entirely to kindness?
Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate. —Albert Schweitzer
The Health Benefits of Kindness
Have you ever noticed how good you feel after you’ve done something nice for someone else? Well it turns out there’s a perfectly good explanation for it. Backed by science, no less.
In his book, Why Kindness is Good For You, Dr. David Hamilton reveals how kindness has been scientifically proven to change the brain and impact the heart and immune system. He also says kindness might even be an antidote to depression. He gave a TEDx talk on the subject, which you should definitely watch. That Scottish accent!
I wish I’d known this when I was spending R300 a month on Naturally High.
According to Dr. Hamilton, kindness has evolved in us and as a result, its effects are felt daily throughout our nervous system. When we’re kind, our physical health benefits.
Kindness Makes You Happier
In addition, gratitude –a serendipitous byproduct of kindness– can make you at least 25% happier. If you perform a random act of kindness for someone less fortunate you’ll automatically feel more grateful for your own life.
The positive effects of kindness don’t stop with the doer and the doee (that’s not a word, but you know what I mean). If you witness an act of kindness, you’ll feel the positive effects of that interaction as well.
Never underestimate the far-reaching effects one random act of kindness (big or small) can have on the world. Your good turn has the power to change lives.
Kindness Lets You Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes
Sadly, Cape Town’s homeless population is on the rise. The City does what it can, but on a daily basis Sporty and I are confronted by the problem. These people serve as a constant reminder of how much we have to be grateful for. Along with daily opportunities to be kind, they also allow us to build our empathy muscles.
Unfortunately, we don’t always take advantage of this. Too often we’re in a hurry or worse, not in the mood. This attitude comes with a price though, because just like you feel good when you do good, you feel horrible when you pass on the opportunity to make a difference.
Obviously we can’t help everyone, but the horrible feeling serves as a not so gentle reminder that kindness doesn’t always have to cost something. We could take the time to slow down, acknowledge their presence and offer a smile.
Lofty ideals, I know. But if I don’t at least try to hold myself to a higher standard my mother’s going to be spinning in her grave (and she never was one for roller-coaster rides).
Sporty’s mom set the charity bar ridiculously high as well, often going so far as to bringing homeless people back with her to stay with them. So yes, we need to up our game if we’re to have any hope at all of filling our mothers’ shoes.
The One Question You Should Never Stop Asking Yourself
Brian Johnson says the fastest way to discover your purpose is to constantly ask yourself: What would the highest version of me do in this moment?
That’s a pretty good yardstick. The caveat however, comes in actually remembering to ask the question. Although I guess with practice it will eventually become a habit.
You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. —Kahlil Gibran
Amazing Adventures of a Nobody
In his book, Amazing Adventures of a Nobody: A Life Changing Journey Across America Relying on the Kindness of Strangers, Leon Logothetis recounts how a chance watching of the movie, The Motorcycle Diaries, catapulted him from his disconnected life and uninspiring job.
Leon packs it all in, leaving behind his job, his worldly possessions (including his money) and some very perplexed family members and friends, to embark on adventure that would change his life forever.
Relying on the kindness of strangers and whatever opportunities came his way to keep him fed and sheltered, Leon makes his way from New York to Los Angeles. A far cry from his old life, nowadays Leon travels the world spreading a simple message: Go Be Kind.
8 Ways to Make a Difference
We often fall into the trap of believing we can’t make a difference, because we’re just one person or we don’t have a lot of money or we can’t feed every homeless person in the city.
Each and every one of us has it in our power to do something worthwhile, however small, however seemingly insignificant. Every act counts. Don’t ever doubt that.
1. Start a Charity Drive
Identify the charity you’d like to support and contact them to find out what they need. Create a wishlist and email it to your friends, family, colleagues and whatever other connections. Explain exactly what you’re doing and for which charity. It’s best to be as up front as possible so as to avoid looking like a dodgy Santa Claus imposter.
2. Pick a Charity and Do Something on Your Own
Some years ago Sporty and I came across an old age home for ‘down on their luck’ old folk. These people were grateful to just have somewhere to live, which meant luxuries were at a premium.
I’d just discovered my inner-baker and as it turned out she was pretty good at whipping up sweet treats. If channelling Nigella sounds like a stretch, you can always just buy a bunch of cakes and cookies and drop them off. It’s the intention that matters.
3. Volunteer Your Time
If you don’t celebrate Christmas or if your family eats dinner together instead of lunch – then why not volunteer at a soup kitchen or an orphanage? These organizations are often short-staffed at this time of the year and will always welcome a pair of extra hands to help out.
3. Random Acts of Kindness
These are huge amount of fun and they don’t require a lot of time, money or planning. You don’t have to limit your efforts to the needy either. Everyone deserves (and appreciates) an unexpected surprise once in a while.
When thinking about random acts of kindness, usually donating money comes to mind. But, what we don’t realize is that there are opportunities for kindness all around us every single day – helping a friend cook a meal, sending an encouraging letter, and even a sweet compliment can cheer someone up.
4. 12 days of Christmas (25 Dec – 5 Jan)
Commit to performing 12 random acts of kindness from Christmas Day until January 5th. The nice thing about this is that with the major holidays done, you’re free to focus on your project without the stress of still having to do your shopping and cooking lunch for the family.
5. Advent Calendar (1-24 Dec)
You could also do something in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Get yourself an Advent Calendar as a reminder and reward yourself with a chocolate for every good deed you perform. Obviously you shouldn’t need a reward before doing something nice, but chocolate.
6. Make up Parcels for Street People
Last year Sporty and I made up a bunch of parcels and rode around on Christmas morning handing them out. We made sandwiches and bought a few other bits and pieces to add to the bags.
We thought we’d made plenty, but in the end it took us less than an hour to hand them out. It felt really good and set the tone for the day. We were only sorry we hadn’t made more.
7. Take it Online
If you sell products online you could commit to donating a percentage of your profits. All you’d have to do is decide on a charity and then ask your community to help spread the word.
Another option is to set up an account with an organization like Kiva and do an online drive to support them. If you have a fairly decent following this could produce good results.
8. What about the Animals?
Animals are often neglected at this time of year and as a result the animal shelters become overcrowded and short on supplies. You could offer to help out at a shelter, temporarily foster an animal until a suitable home is found for it or just donate money or food.
If you need more ideas or inspiration you can always check out Randomactsofkindness.org.