The Power of Kindness · Experience Life
Tina Miller, MA,CFLE stashed this in wisdom
“We live in a kind of fundamental scarcity,” explains Kristi Nelson, executive director of A Network for Grateful Living, a nonprofit that promotes gratitude practice. “That sense of scarcity tends to run our lives.”It also leads to perpetual rushing, which only makes matters worse. In Nelson’s view, the “preoccupation with always getting somewhere and getting more” drives an unhealthy tendency toward self-focus. We start to believe “it’s me or them.” All the time.
So kindness is about putting we before me.
REMEMBER THAT KINDNESS IS A PRACTICE, NOT A PROJECT.
In our quest for kindness, challenges are inevitable. Someone will always be driving slow in the fast lane or passing on the right. Mean-spirited gossip will forever be circulating at work. There will always be lines, angry online commenters, personal upheavals. And that’s OK.
“It’s better to see this as a playful adventure rather than a project that needs to get accomplished,” says Goldstein. “You’re trying to rewire yourself for a greater sense of well-being and purpose in the world, and that requires some lightness in your attitude. Once you become too aggressive or serious about it, then you’re going the wrong way.”
One trap many people fall into, according to Goldstein, is thinking of kindness as an achievement. This creates an idea of an endpoint: You did all the right things, so now you can check “being kind” off your to-do list.
A better approach, he suggests, is to strive to develop a growing awareness of what happens when we stray from kindness, and then gently direct ourselves back toward the compassionate path.
“You can cultivate kindness” says Goldstein, “by simply inviting yourself to begin again.”
START AT HOME.
Studies in behavioral science have found that most of us are more likely to act cheerful toward complete strangers than the people we see and live with every day.
While any positive interaction boosts our baseline well-being, according to Fredrickson, it’s good to bring our kindness practice home, not least because it can be more difficult to be warm and caring toward the people we see routinely — and who occasionally annoy us, bore us, or treat us rudely. If we can rise to that challenge, we know we’re really growing.
“When we think about kindness, we often imagine these grand gestures, but we don’t need to join the Peace Corps to create more compassion in our lives,” says Nelson. “Start by looking closer to home. How do you treat the people you live with?”
That includes yourself. Be kind to yourself.
ADJUST YOUR AUTOMATIC RESPONSES.
Stress triggers us to act in unkind ways — maybe cursing the driver who cut us off, or snapping at our kids when they’re slow getting dressed. Then we feel bad about it, which creates more stress.
“We get stuck in these anxious, negative loops,” says Goldstein. “So we seek out comfort where we can find it, and end up overeating, or paying too much attention to our smartphones, or otherwise constantly trying to distract ourselves.”
Fortunately, we can hack these automatic tendencies by consciously building new mental habits. “The brain has the wonderful ability to make things automatic,” Goldstein says. “When you have awareness that you want to be kind, and then you practice it, you’re essentially rewiring the compassionate part of your mind.”
When you notice an irritated thought, redirect your mind, he suggests. Don’t try to be kind right away; it will only annoy you further. Instead, take a breath and see if (counter to your automatic thoughts) you have what you really need and are basically OK.
You might still have time to get where you’re going, even if your kids are being pokey. Or you might realize that even if you are going to be late, you don’t want to waste time fuming about it. That’s all it takes to shift your mind into a kinder mode.