We live in a world that celebrates and rewards intelligence, innovation, assertiveness, ambition and, at times, cunning and corruption. Therefore, it is easy to overlook the importance of the subtler qualities that drive society forward.
Without doubt, kindness is one of those qualities, and I believe it’s time for us to fully appreciate the value of this wonderful human quality:
Kindness is desirable. In an NBC nationwide survey, it was revealed that seventy percent of employees would forgo a generous raise for a kinder boss. Lovers prefer kindness over intelligence in their partners, and both teachers and parents would overwhelmingly prefer children to exhibit kindness rather than achieve good grades.
Kindness is therapeutic and uplifting. In the NBC survey, it was revealed that ninety percent of people feel better after offering an act of kindness — and numerous scientific studies have confirmed that engaging in acts of kindness is one of the most significant ways to improve your own well-being and life satisfaction.
Kindness is the foundation of a well-functioning society. A quick glance at the world’s kindest, happiest, and most prosperous countries reveals a clear connection between widespread kindness and societal well-being.
Seven of the world’s twelve kindest countries are also among the twelve happiest and most prosperous nations. Two other kind countries, the UK and Germany, are listed in the top twelve for prosperity, and the top twenty for happiness.
The pursuit of a kinder world is not just honorable; I believe it is also achievable. However, the first step is to acknowledge and understand that, as much as we may wish for it to be so, kindness is not going to sweep over the globe like an inevitable sunrise. It’s going to take effort on our part.
A kind world is the result of billions of individual kindnesses.
Therefore, in order for the world to be kinder, all we have to do is become kinder individuals. Not think of being kinder. Not hope of being kinder. Not resolve to be kinder or claim we are kinder. In order to live in a kinder world, we each need to actually make the decision in singular moments to spread and amplify kindness.
Thankfully, this is not as hard as it may seem. There are four simple ways we can spread kindness throughout our communities, by harnessing the power of each moment:
Throughout the day, practice being more aware of others around you. Lift your eyes from your phone, draw your thoughts back to the present moment, and become aware of the people around you. What are they doing? What are they trying to accomplish? Is there something you can do to make their life a little easier in that moment?
A kind world is so much more obtainable when we each learn to step out of our personal bubble. Follow impulses to smile at strangers; offer to carry heavy bags; pay for the coffee order behind you. Kindness is most effective when it is unexpected, so actively look for ways to delightfully surprise people you know, and people you don’t.
3. Applied Empathy
There are seven billion life stories on this planet that don’t resemble your own. Understanding this can help you embrace kindness in otherwise tense situations. Make one of your daily mantras “what’s their story?” A waiter makes a minor mistake on your order; what’s going on in their life that made them forget? A driver is wildly cutting through traffic; what stresses are they under to be in such a hurry?
By applying empathy, we allow ourselves a greater opportunity to choose more conscious reactions. We may need to correct a wrong, but we can do so kindly. We may need to set boundaries or assert our position, but we can use gentle words. We may even find, in a moment of kind empathy, that we can forgive a transgression completely and move on without a word being said.
4. Natural Connection
Kindness is a universal quality, and its effects need not be limited to the human race. If you are feeling a little jaded with humanity or are looking to amplify goodness in other ways, there are a multitude of kindnesses that you can extend to the animals around us and the earth we live on. Install a bird feeder in your front yard; leave water out for wildlife on hot sunny days; foster a homeless pet; plant a tree or decline plastic bags at your supermarket. Look for ways to be kind to the environment and the creatures who share this Earth with us.
Kindness is a vital human characteristic and studies show that most of us are yearning for it in our lives, and in our world. So, take responsibility for the part you play in this tapestry of life. Make kindness a priority and a wondrous, life-enhancing daily habit.
Originally published at medium.com.