I have a t-shirt that says, “Practice Kindness.” I usually get a lot of compliments when I wear it. People seem to like the message. But how many of practice kindness on a daily basis? How often do we go out of our way to do something truly kind with no thought to what we will get in return?
I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately, specifically how the act of being kind and compassionate toward others affects personal wellness. In my view, it seems there’s a lack of ‘everyday’ kindness in today’s society. Too be clear, I’m not suggesting that people are purposely unkind or mean (although some might be), I just feel that people are so consumed in the frenzy of their lives that they don’t always notice others. And, as a result, don’t always take the effort to perform a random act of kindness.
Last week I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room with about a dozen other adults. A woman across the room, using a walker, was struggling to open a door. As I looked up I noticed that no one seated close to the door attempted to help her. People were watching her struggle, but no one thought to go help her with the door. I immediately got up and helped her with the door. Because that’s what you do when you see someone is struggling, you help him or her, right? I guess not.
The woman with the walker was grateful for the help and thanked me. I smiled and said, “no problem.” I was happy to help, but part of me wanted to scowl at those who didn’t bother to help her (I realize scowling would be unkind); I was so frustrated. At what point did opening a door for someone become going the extra mile? When did a small act of kindness toward others become too big of an effort to tear us away from our smart phones or ipads?
You would think performing acts of kindness would be more prevalent, since we inadvertently seem to benefit from it. Scientists, who have studied kindness, discuss the idea of a “helper’s high,” meaning the act of being kind provides a uniquely positive sensation. There is also countless research on the mental and physical health benefits of practicing kindness. For example, in the Psychology Today article, “Raising Happiness,” Dr. Christine Carter, explains, “People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease.”
How amazing is that? Not only do you get the burst of good energy from helping someone, but you can also benefit physically as well. It’s a win-win! So how do we encourage the act of being kind on a day-to-day basis? I personally feel that when you do something nice for someone, such as opening a door, or picking up an item they may have dropped on the floor, they are more likely to take notice and pay it forward.
Therefore, my challenge to you this week is to be more mindful of your everyday actions toward others. Pay it forward. Be the one who gives your seat on the train to an elderly person, holds the elevator for the person rushing to make it to work on time, or smiles and shows your appreciation to the teller, waiter, or customer service representative that helped you today (I’m serious). As the storyteller, Aesop, once said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Take notice, be aware, and be kind. You might just make someone’s day!