Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What Motivates Your Acts of Kindness?

When you are walking down the street and see someone like the man above, what do you feel? What do you do? There are many feelings that may be involved if you take the moment to experience them. Most of us glance away because we don't want to have feelings that would motivate us to get involved. What might we learn about ourselves if we examined our feelings? What action might we take?

Many folks do acts of kindness out of altruism, because it is what they believe is the right thing to do. But true kindness requires empathy and compassion. There is a YouTube video that explains so much more clearly than I can. Have a look, it's only four minutes:


We need to nurture empathy and compassion in ourselves and our family, then spread it to everyone we can. That is what can change the world for the better.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Kindness 101 Homework

Last blog gave the elements of kindness. Now it is time to practice making it part of your life. Begin by taking some quiet time to think about what you need to nurture yourself. Because, being kind to yourself will help you be a kinder person overall.

How might you be kind to yourself. Consider how you are feeling these days. What would feel really good? Some time alone? Or time with special positive people? Getting to bed earlier? Getting up earlier? Playing a game with family members or friends? Seeing a funny movie? Eating healtier? Going for a run? Going for a swim? Explore the ways you can build into your week the things that nurture you as a person.

Maybe you have been wanting to start a journal but haven't taken the time. Build time into your day for half and hour of writing in your journal and getting to know yourself better. By journalling or sitting quietly, connect with the inner you. Listen to your thoughts without judging. Then think positive and encouraging thoughts.

Make a plan for taking care of you. Do something that nurtures you.

One way to be kind to others is to take time to listen to them, truly listen. What are their thoughts and dreams, what do they want out of life, what nurtures them? They may not have taken time to listen to themselves. Talking to you, a good listener, can help them find that inner person in them. But no matter what the conversation, your taking time to listen tells them that you value them. This will nurture them and the relationship with them.

Do something that nurtures someone else.

Be kind.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Kindness 101

We think we know what kindness is. But it is good to look at the fundamentals of kindness to be more likely to make our acts of kindness more effective. The fundamentals, according to Atkins and Salzhauer in The Kindness Advangage: cultivating compassionate and connected children, are:
(be) Yourself

Acceptance of others as they are is a great kindness in this age of fearing and hating others for what they are when they are different from us. In order to accept others we need to be fully accepting of ourselves as we are. When this occurs we are more open to exchanging ideas and customs with others. This, then, helps bring us together. We can find ways to relate to others rather than keeping our distance. We can be aware of our differences, aknowlege them and how they contribute to our uniqueness, but we don't allow the differences to interfere with acceptance. Make connections with people who are different from you.

Commitment to making kindness a way of life for you and your family will begin to change the world. It is easy to think of being kind, but we need to act on it when given a chance. And watch for those opportunities as we encounter our world. "Being kind involves your whole being: body, mind, and heart." You may find that it is easier to see the opportuniteis to choose kindness when you are alone, but try not to ignore them when you are with someone else. That way you will be modeling kindness to others and encourage them to be more kind.

Connection with others and sharing ideas is the foundation for a meaningful relationship. Connecting with someone is about paying attention, listening, watching, and being there. "Dispite language, culture, neighborhood, or physical differences, we have the ability to connect with anyone, because at our core we are the same." When you connect, truly connect, for even a few minutes, you have a better chance to know what kind of kindness the other person needs. Sometimes making that connection is the kindness they need at that moment.

Empathy is  the abiity to understand another person's internal experience, whether you agree or disagree with that experience. Empathy is unlike sympathy, when you make assumptions about how the other person is feeling. Understanding someone else's experience requires you to listen carefully and watch closely, putting your own reactions aside and focus on the other person's experience. We can try to understand their situation from both our head and our heart, making our responses meaningfult to them. What you need may not be what they need.

Giving kindness is the action that results from your kind thoughts and your awareness of the other person's needs or wants. Giving to others benefits even the giver. It creates a positive response in our brain that makes us feel good. There are lots of ways to give, of course. And as you become more empathic your giving will become more gratifying to you and the other person as well.

Interest can lead you to opportunities for kindness. Learn more about what interests you, and look for opportunities for acts of kindness. That interest might move you to help someone or do something and become part of something greater than yourself. There are myriad causes in the world where help is needed. Find what interests you and explore its opportunities for acts of kindness.

Nurturing gives a person the feeling that someone cares.There are countless opportunities to nurture relationships with people, animals, and plants, just by noticing and doing something. Give an honest compliment, bring someone coffee or share a snack, tend to a plant with watering or fertilizing, even a handshake can be a nurturing gesture. In this busy world where folks keep their distance, human touch has become pretty rare. And with concerns about sexual harrassment people shy away from touch. There are, however, clearly friendly caring touches of a hand or shoulder to make a point or share a laugh. 

Observing is vital for learning where kindness is needed, where opportunities for acts of kindness can be found. There is much to see when we open our eyes and ears and minds to notice what otheres are doing. We may discover new things. What you observe may make you to think and act in a different way. And take time to smell the roses; be kind to yourself.

Questioning can broaden your perspective with new information. There are things we don't understand happening around us all the time. Questioning is probably the best way toward understanding and learning where acts of kindness are needed, what kinds of acts of kindness would be most appreciated. Question things that don't seem right. Investigate ways to make changes for the better.

(be) Yourself. Remember that there is no one else just like you. Everyone can offer something unique to the world. We can share our uniqueness for good in the world. Take pride in your strengths or talents so that you feel good about yourself. You are more likely to give of yourself when you value your uniqueness. Good self-esteem helps us be more engaged in our world and willing to act on the opportunities of kindness we discover.

Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.             - Eleanor Roosevelt, politician, diplomat, activist.
And one more thing that helps you to be kind is your own gratitude. When you are aware of and grateful for all that you have, no matter what your financial status, you realize that there is always something that you can give. Give your time, your talent, your money, your ideas, your attention, out of gratitude for what you already have yourself.

*This post is based on information in The Kindness Advangage: cultivating compassionate and connected children, byDale Atkins PhD, and Amanda Salzhauer, MSW.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Nurturing Kindness

Nurturing kindness makes for happier people, more harmonious homes and a healthier society. If you've been noticing the current environment you have found folks looking for happiness. Unfortunately, many are turning to unhealthy habits to look for happiness. Addictions are at epidemic proportions. While drugs or other addictive behaviors may give a momentary feeling of happiness or deaden our uncomfortable feelings, there is no happiness there. Ask any recovering addict if they were happier when they were using than when they were clear of the addiction.

Scientists/Psychologists  have studyied happiness for yearsThe look for what makes people happy, thrive, and flourish. They have found that performing positive activities, expressing gratitude or doing acts of kindness, boosts happiness.

This applies to children as well as adults. Kids that do acts of kindness on a regular basis were more sociall accepted, improved their academic experience, increase their inclusivity and make them less likely to bully othere as teens. Nurturing kindness in children is a good investment in the future of our families and community.

You can experience the "helper's high" when diectly helping others. "There is a release of endorphins, a feeling of satisfaction, and overall improvement in physical and emotional health." There are changes in the brain when people think good thoughts do kind acts, or even observe other people performing kind acts.* This is one reason that Social Media posts about actis of kindness can make us feel better when we see them than when we see posts that are negative, hateful, or cruel.

When stressed or in pain, people are looking for ways to feel better. We now know that helping others will help them too. So in a time of high stress, do something for someone else. You will feel better and they will too.

So be kind. My next post will explore the fundamentals of kindness. If you've ever experienced a negative reaction to your kindness, we will explore why.

*This post is based on the book The Kindness Advantage: cultivating compassion and connected children  by Dale Atkins, PhD and Amanda Salzhauer, MSW.