Happy Gratitude Month! I consider November a time to pay extra attention to those things we have to be thankful for, big and small. In fact, a couple years ago, I wrote a four part post about the power of gratitude – you can read it beginning here. So today, I thought I focus on one of gratitude’s companion qualities, kindness.
Maybe it’s because I recently finished the book, A Year of Living Kindly, or maybe it’s because that book has caused me to pay extra attention to my own level of kindness, I find that I’m alert to noticing kindness in myself as well as others. Honestly, I have a lot of work to do in that area. Even thought I’m almost always nice, I don’t always act kindly in words, thoughts and deeds. While this is never directed at the target of my unkindness, it’s still unkind.
Example: I had a very long travel day this week, returning from a convention in Texas. While I know airports are enough to make anyone grumpy these days, I was especially so. I had a long wait, I was dehydrated and I wasn’t nourishing my body the way I should. Outwardly, I was fine, showing kindness to the airline staff and TSA workers because I know how difficult their jobs can be. But inwardly? Inwardly I was snarky and finding fault with everyone I saw. Does kindness count if it’s accompanied by unkind thoughts? I don’t think so.
Thankfully, I noticed where my thoughts were going and I set to change them. So I did this thing with myself. After I boarded the plane, to each person that walked past me, I silently noticed something special about them. This person had a nice smile, another helped someone get their carry-on in the overhead bin, someone else was patient with their kids, and so on.
This certainly helped change my direction, although not completely. When a very large man came to sit in the center seat of my row, I thought to offer him the aisle seat I was in to give him a little more room. But it was a long flight, my choice is always aisle, and I just didn’t want to, so I didn’t. Of course I wondered later if switching seats with him would have somehow eased his very loud snoring. For the rest of the flight, and even now, I know I missed an opportunity to show kindness.
It’s easy to be kind sometimes, but what about when we don’t feel like it, like with the center seat man? Perhaps that’s when it’s most needed. Perhaps if I had offered him my seat, it would have changed his day to the better (and mine in the process). I believe kindness has the power to improve relationships, improve communities and create peace in the world.
When you are kind to those around you, kindness comes back to you in a myriad of ways. It costs nothing to be kind and doesn’t even need to take any extra time. Kindness increases happiness and has been shown to improve your health and make you live longer. We all have the capacity to be kinder. As with most qualities, kindness is an inside job. When you think kindly, you act kindly.
Becoming more kind doesn’t have to be difficult. Noticing opportunities for kindness, will lead to more kindness, and before you know it you’re creating a kindness habit. That’s how habits start – show kindness, get that good feeling that goes along with it, want more of that good feeling, wash, rinse, repeat. Little or big, doesn’t matter – a warm smile, helping someone carry their groceries, a heartfelt compliment, these all count.
We all know what kindness is. You don’t need one of my lists of 10 Ways to Be Kind. And besides, it all starts with your thoughts. So make it a point, beginning today, to bring more kindness into your life, and recognize the kindness in others.