Overall our society has become very jaded and cynical. We find it hard to trust people’s motives because we are always looking for hidden agendas. Someone got me Derren Brown’s new book, ‘Confessions of a Conjuror’ (it’s a good read) for Christmas. I was impressed with his discussion of kindness and how this human virtue has somehow become unpopular in self-help circles. The focus tends to be around self empowerment, personal power and one’s own success.
While those kinds of things can be useful to focus on, it is well established that simply ‘being kind’ is one of, if not the best way to maintain feelings of genuine happiness. All the spiritual traditions talk about this and more recently Positive Psychology has been emphasising again how ‘altruistic acts’ promote authentic happiness within oneself.
We know all this anyway simply from our own experience. Have you ever done a ‘random act of kindness?‘ Or maybe you’ve surprised a loved one with a spontaneous special gift. So what’s it feel like when you’ve done such a thing? Pretty good right! There is a feeling around the heart – some love.
There seems to be a negative focus of attention in the mainstream media and a lot of television programs tend to have a negative, critical, fault finding slant. All of this influences us. It’s useful to proactively counteract this by looking for the goodness around us.
We’re perceiving reality all the time through our habitual filtering system. By purposely practicing looking for good things such as ‘kind acts’ we can learn new filters that oppose the ‘cynical culture mindset.’ This can be as simple as observing the old lady feeding the ducks in the park and acknowledging that kindness.
Of course to establish a robust habit of perceiving the abundance of kindness around us we need to practice seeing and doing it every day…
- Give Gifts: Is there someone you haven’t had much contact with recently? Send them a thoughtful gift. This could be as simple as making a card with their favourite kind of picture on it.
- Be Extra Courteous: Most people are polite but when things get busy and stressful manners can slip. Make an effort to give that barista a genuine smile and thanks. Hold the door for the slow person that is approaching.
- The Web of Kindness: Reality is formed by our points of view. With our mind we can choose how we perceive the ‘external world.’ You can re-program your mind by doing meditation practices. The ‘web of kindness’ is a Buddhist meditation that focuses on observing the kindness in the world around you. You start by thinking about a kind act you’ve seen. Take the road sweeper for instance. Yes he’s paid to do the job but the fact is he’s still kind enough to do the tasks. Who was good enough to make the brush? Who was kind enough to cut and shape the wood needed for the brush. Who drives the truck that disposes of the garbage? And so on…
- Feed The Animals: Wild animals are often hungry. Take the time to feed the birds and ducks. The bread that’s going stale will be ok for them. What would happen if you bought the ducks something special?
- Give Sincere Compliments: You can really touch someone by giving them a sincere compliment. Complimenting someone about a positive character trait they possess tends to make more of an impact than compliments about appearance.
It makes sense to practice being more and more kind in everyday life, just by doing simple things, because it will increase our own genuine happiness. As I was writing this article I came across the following website that lists 273 kindness ideas:
By the way thanks for reading! 😆