I'm honored to be part of an amazing group -- Random Acts of Kick Arse. The group, which includes Life, Laughs, and Lemmings, The Jungle of Life, Jane Be Nimble, Joy Rebel, Operation Nice, has joined together to take part in committing random acts over the course of one month. Each month we have a different "theme" and, for the month of October, the theme was kindness. When I first started thinking about this random acts of kindness project, I had some doubts. First and foremost, I wasn't sure I'd remember to keep up with my random acts of kindness (terrible, I know). What if I forgot to be kind? What if I got to the end of the month and had no random acts to write about?
Secondly, I wasn't sure quite how I felt about random acts of kindness. It wasn't all that long ago that I read (and agreed with) an article on The Happiness Project called "Happiness Myth No. 7: Doing Random Acts of Kindness Brings Happiness." In the article, Gretchen Rubin says, "It’s not bad to practice random acts of kindness. But if you want to build your happiness based on the happiness you bring to other people –- the noblest ways of boosting happiness -– it’s more productive to be targeted. Help a co-worker even when you’re rushing to meet a deadline yourself...Putting money in someone’s meter is just such an unexpected action that there’s a good chance that it won’t be understood correctly." Basically, Rubin believes that, though people like kindness, randomness throws people off and it's not always appreciated.
As Rubin said, it's not bad to be kind in a random fashion, but is it really as productive as we think? I don't know... It's for this reason that I had a hard time with the group project of committing random acts of kindness. I had to wonder, "Would these acts be misinterpreted? Would they be appreciated? Would I honestly feel better, happier, if I performed these acts?" At the beginning of the month, I struggled with this. I wasn't sure what kinds of acts I should perform and, if I did perform them, I wasn't sure what kind of expectations I would have for them. I felt a little bit helpless in the world of random acts, not sure what to do and if whatever I came up with would really be something worth writing about at the end of the month.
So I went back to The Happiness Project and re-read Rubin's article. I realized that the more I thought about, the more I agreed with her. The random things -- like plugging someone's meter or letting a car in front of you in traffic -- are great, but they're not as worthwhile as the less random things -- such as helping a coworker who's super busy or visiting a friend who's upset. I was originally planning to list all of the random acts I did over the month of October, but instead I found myself attempting to help out those around me. I found myself being more attentive to the needs of others and looking around for ways to help those around me make their lives better.
To some, this might sound like something we should be doing all the time -- and I agree with that. We should always be trying to help our friends, our families, or our coworkers. But are we? I don't know about you but I find that I often get wrapped up in whatever I'm doing or get so distracted that my own busy-ness that I forget to really look around me and see what kind things I may be able to do for others. Oddly enough, one of the greatest opportunities for me to be kind to someone else came up over the past month. As you may have read, my mother was pretty sick for about a week with the flu. My mom is rarely sick and rarely asks me to do anything for her, so this was a great opportunity for me to flex my kindness muscles.
One of the things I worried about most when it came to taking on this random acts of kindness project this month was the whole brag factor. Did I really want to do nice things for others and then hop on my website and tell the world about them? Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of doing nice things, if you're really only doing them for praise? For that reason, I'm not going to list (or even tell you about) the kind things I strived to do over the past month. Instead, I'm going to tell you this: being kind to other people makes you feel great. No matter whether I did a small kind thing or a big kind thing, I felt good while I was doing it and it left me with an after glow of happiness. If you're considering doing something kind for someone else, I'd suggest you get on that. It makes other people feel good and it makes you feel great.
Since I'm not going to list all of the kind things I did this month (but I did them! I swear!), I'm going to give you some advice based on what I've learned over the past month as I pondered the concept of kindness in my own life. Kindness should come naturally, it should be something we do without thinking about it, but that's not always the case. For those of you who'd like to incorporate more kindness in your life, check out my ideas below.
How To Kick Ass with Kindness
- Pay attention to the lives around you. This sounds easy enough, but think about how often you get caught up in your own life and don't really pay attention to the lives of those around you? I find that this happens to me a lot, and it's pretty hard to really, truly be kind to others when you're completely caught up in your own life. It's really important to look around you and pay attention to what's going on with other people. Don't wait for someone to come for you and ask you for help. Reach out to him or her and spread that kindness around!
- Listen to what people are saying. It's so important to listen to what other people are saying. And don't just listen to the words that are coming out of their mouths. Listen to what the meaning is behind those words. Listen to what people are not saying. Sometimes it's what people don't say that's really important. One of the greatest ways to find out how you can help other people and treat them with kindness is to listen to them. Sounds easy, but it's even easier to ignore the true meaning in another's words. Listen up and address the words of others with kindness.
- Treat yourself with kindness always. It's pretty hard to be kind to others if you're not kind to yourself. It's interesting, actually, when you look at some of the nicest, kindest people and realize that they're really hard on themselves. Some of the nicest people I know treat themselves pretty harshly. If you really want to be open to committing acts of kindness, you have to treat yourself with kindness. Be nice to yourself. Treat yourself kindly and be nice to your mind and your body. If you do this, you'll be much more able to treat others with kindness as well.
- Look out for the underdogs in life. Some people naturally cheer for the underdogs in life, but many of us don't really pay that much attention to the little guy. It's not that we're mean to the underdogs, but we might not notice them because they're usually not as loud or showy as some of the big dogs. While you're paying attention to the lives of those around you and being conscious of what others might need, look to see who's not speaking up, who's getting buried by the noise and chaos of others. It's often those that aren't speaking up or voicing their problems that need the most help. If you're able to offer someone else a bit of kindness -- even if it's just a kind word -- you can really make a difference in the life of an underdog.
- Go out of your way for others. While I never believe you make other people the priority in your life, I do think it's important to find ways to go out of your way for other people. It's easy to do things for others that benefit you as well, but what can you do for someone else that really requires you to go out of your way for him or her? Sometimes it's a pain in the ass to go out of your way for someone else, but it's such a great way to spread kindness. People don't often expect you to go out of your way for them so it can be such a pleasant surprise for them when you do. Give it a try and see what happens!
I hope these tips have inspired to you to spread kindness in your own life. I know we should always be doing this, but don't think I don't know how easy it is to get caught up in other things and not think about treating others with kindness. Sometimes it's just a matter of going from neutral to kind. Just because you're not being mean or cruel doesn't mean you're being kind. This month has given me a chance to really think about kindness and how I can incorporate it into my life. I can say for a fact that acting out of kindness has really helped me to be happier this month -- and nothing brought a smile to my face when I received a hand written note thanking me for being so kind. Take these suggestions and see how you can incorporate more kindness into your life!
How do you spread kindness to those around you?
What is your opinion on random acts of kindness?