Acts of Kindness: Here's How They Can Make You a Better Person
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Acts of Kindness: Here’s How They Can Make You a Better Person

Before you cross Christmas and the festivities off your calendar, don’t forget to cultivate one of the most essential Christmas values: kindness. Acts of kindness not only make the world a better place but can also benefit your health and turn you into a more positive, balanced person. Kindness can take on many forms, but it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture – it can be as simple as a gentle smile at a stranger. Read the blog below to learn more about kindness and find out how to introduce it in your life this festive season and beyond.

As the festive season is coming to an end, so are Christmas commercials, merchandise, and events. With all the buzz, few people remember what the Christmas spirit is really about; spreading kindness among loved ones and strangers. Even though the Christmas narrative tells us to be kind to one another, the real challenge is to adopt this approach when the season ends. While you might believe your job is done because you’d gifted your loved ones presents and sent a few cards, don’t forget there are plenty of ways you can make someone’s day after the festive period is over. 

Acts of kindness come in many forms, which you’ll learn about in this blog.

 

What is Kindness?

How do you feel when you see someone in pain? Do you perhaps wish you could do something to improve their situation? Maybe you even ‘feel’ their pain or difficulty within yourself? That feeling is called compassion. It can be defined as sympathy that arises when we witness or learn of someone’s suffering. Compassion (from Latin Cum= with; patio= suffering) means to ease someone else’s suffering by somehow sharing their difficult burden. Kindness is that aspect of compassion that makes us want to do something to relieve that person’s suffering. It’s an amazing, incredibly human quality.

 Kindness refers to performing selfless actions. However, if you think kindness means buying someone an expensive gift, or donating enormous sums of money to charity, think again. Kindness doesn’t need grand gestures. 

If you look around, you can spot it everywhere. In the person who opens the door for someone in physical difficulty; in a pack of chocolates that your partner got you because they know you’ve been feeling unwell; in the person who offers to take you to the place you asked directions for, or even simply in exchanging a gentle smile with a stranger. 

You might not realise it, but chances are you regularly engage in acts of kindness yourself, and if you’re not, why not start today? 

Be Kind with Others by first being Kind to Yourself

Kindness is a beautiful thing as long as you don’t confuse it with constantly putting other people’s needs before yours. This may be especially important during the festive season when you might be more vulnerable to stress and more determined to meet other people’s expectations. For example, while it might be tempting to agree to one more request to satisfy a family member, it’s essential to avoid becoming too overwhelmed. Remember, to be kind does not mean to be completely selfless and saying no does not make you a bad person. 

Next time you struggle to say no, ask yourself, do I really want to do it? and, ‘is it going to hurt my mental health?’.

Learning to say no is crucial because it’s the first step to becoming kinder towards yourself. Being kind towards yourself sets the tone for how you treat other people. Suppose you neglect your needs and focus on pleasing others. In that case, you’re essentially like a car that’s running out of petrol (or better, electricity!). Eventually, you’ll run out of resources to help others and be forced to stop. The kinder you are to yourself, the more you can do for others. It’s a win-win scenario!

Why is it Hard to Be Kind Sometimes?

Since kindness is such a positive quality, why does it seem it’s hard for some people to be kind? Unfortunately, to some people, kindness might sound synonymous with weakness and allowing others to use them. Although this might sound like a cynical view, some people may adopt it because they have been taken advantage of in the past, and don’t want to hurt again. Their apparent lack of kindness can be seen as the defence they use to protect themselves.

Kindness is also hard for some because it requires vulnerability, and many people aren’t comfortable with that. At the same time, it’s when you’re vulnerable, that you’re more able to connect deeply with other people and act true to your feelings. Sure, sometimes you might get hurt in the process, but how other people’s behaviour doesn’t reflect who you are. Plus, there are a lot of benefits of being kind, which you’ll learn about in the next section.

Why Are Acts of Kindness Important?

Kindness may help you realise that there can be a lot more good in the world. This thought alone can give you warm fuzzy feelings and make you feel more connected to other people.

The Benefits of Kindness

1 – Acts of kindness make other people feel good, which in turn can make you feel good about yourself. There are countless examples of this: when you stand up for a stranger; when you buy a coffee for someone in need, or when you choose cancel your plans to make time to help out a friend. Acts of kindness like these can improve your self-esteem and make you more likely to view yourself as a good person. In turn, this increases the chances that you’ll engage in more acts of kindness in the future, setting in a beautiful virtuous cycle of kindness and self-esteem!

2 – Acts of kindness can help you broaden your social network. For example, one of the most popular ways to give back to the community is volunteering, which is also a great way to meet new people. Beyond meeting new people, volunteering can also help you put things into perspective and increase gratitude. If you ever volunteer at a shelter, you’ll notice that both people and animals are incredibly appreciative of small acts of kindness. If something so simple can give someone a lot of joy, it means you can start finding the positives in the simplest things too.

3 – Kindness is contagious! If you show kindness towards someone, they’re more likely to do something for another person too – it’s like a domino effect!

4 – By practising more kindness, you teach yourself to be able to notice someone else’s suffering. Learning to be more emphatic, you’ll be more attuned to your own emotions. This, in turn, helps you improve the emotional awareness necessary to express and communicate your needs more effectively and assertively. Consequently, you can form more positive relationships and you will be more likely to achieve your goals in both professional and social life.

5 – Perhaps the most significant benefit of all is that, by being kind, you’re helping make the world a better place.

What Would The World Look Like if Everyone Were Kind?

Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if everyone were kind to each other? Close your eyes and try to imagine for a moment a world dominated by a desire to be kind to one another, where kindness is everyone’s primary quality and concern. 

Perhaps you imagine less conflict between people, a stronger sense of community, fewer barriers, more acceptance of, and a commitment to respect each other’s needs. 

In this world, no one would try to intentionally harm anyone, consequently, there would be less pain in the world, and people’s mental health would improve as a result. For example, children would be less likely to grow up in abusive households and thus develop trauma-based issues in the future. In this more compassionate reality, when people experience the inevitable difficulties of life, these would feel less overwhelming due to the greater support they’d receive. Although this might sound like a very idealistic image, practising acts of kindness regularly is just what you need to make this more of a reality.

What is the Link Between Kindness and Mental Health?

As you’ve learned from the previous sections, kindness comes with many benefits. It can turn you into a better, healthier person. For example, acts of kindness increase gratitude which can help you achieve a more positive view of the world around you and make you feel happier and more balanced. This can do wonders for your mental health; a positive mindset is linked to reduced anxiety and depression symptoms. [1] Additionally, kindness causes a biochemical reaction in your brain; it releases dopamine and endorphins that provoke a positive and healthy ‘high’. [2] 

Kindness helps improve mental health in other ways. For example, it allows us to form healthy relationships with others, thus providing us with a strong support network, which in turn, will protect us from emotional and mental health issues. 

Additionally, cultivating kindness towards others can help you learn how to be compassionate towards yourself, which directly decreases self-criticism and improves your self-esteem. For example, you’re less likely to call yourself names when making a mistake, and you’re more likely to see your failures as learning experiences rather than proof of your incompetence. Achieving both quality relationships and high self-esteem can allow you to live more balanced and fulfilling lives, protecting your mental health in the long term. 

This is why kindness isn’t just a Christmas’s value but one to cultivate consistently throughout the year.

What’s the role of Kindness in Therapy?

These benefits are the reason kindness is an integral part of many therapies. For example, Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) aims to increase one’s mental wellbeing by encouraging compassionate behaviour towards oneself and others. According to CFT theory, humans need to feel a part of a community and seek intimacy in order to survive. Kindness can help them strengthen their sense of belonging, contrasting self-criticism and promoting resilience.

Other therapies, such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), use various techniques, including meditation, to increase kindness and self-compassion. Mindfulness meditation requires you to be focused on the here and now and allow negative experiences to be present without judgement: this is, in itself, a form of self-compassion. 

One of the methods used in ACT therapy is the ‘values clarification’, which can help you identify your values and then take actions to live according to these values. Once you know your values, you can let them guide your behaviour and make your life more meaningful.  

Tips To Become a Kinder person This Festive Period

Practise compassion towards yourself

Kindness should come from a genuine desire to turn someone’s day around. If you treat yourself with compassion and learn that you deserve to feel good, you’re more likely to pass this on to the next person. One way to start showing yourself compassion today is by turning your negative thoughts into encouraging ones. This is especially important during the festive period. You might put yourself down if you don’t manage to complete your to-do list of presents and other preparations and compare your efforts to other people’s. Be understanding when things don’t work out. Tell yourself, ‘It’s okay to not be perfect sometimes’. Additionally, try to encourage yourself with positive statements, for example, ‘You’ve got this!’, ‘You’ve done your best!’. 

2. Forgive Others & Let go

Christmas is also about forgiveness, after all, and it’s for your own benefit, not the person who hurt you. Try to let go of old grudges and focus on moving forward. You can achieve it by reminding yourself that a hurtful event doesn’t define you and that forgiveness doesn’t equal approval. Letting go is often the key to living a balanced, fulfilling life. If you hold onto a grudge, you’re essentially holding onto pain and not allowing yourself to heal. Letting go is one of mindfulness’s principles which is an approach that teaches you how to stay in the present, despite the presence of difficult thoughts or feelings.

3. Leave a tip

Christmas is a hectic period. Customer service workers may have to deal with a higher workload and sometimes not excellent treatment, often knowing they won’t get to spend any time with their families. Show appreciation towards your server whenever you get coffee, a nice meal or your favourite drink. 

4. Forget expensive gifts

Presents are about showing people you appreciate them. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to send this message – your intention is what matter. Instead of saving up for something expensive, consider making the gift yourself this year. For example, you could make your own photo album or give your loved ones a jar filled with your favourite quotes. If you’re buying a gift, rather than thinking about impressing them, connect with your feelings toward the loved one and choose something that makes you smile when you think about them. Remember that kindness doesn’t have to be about grand gestures – that’s why it’s possible to be kind every day!

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How To Continue Being Kind Beyond the Festive Period?

 Just because the festive period comes to an end doesn’t mean you should give up on being kind. Here’s how to practise being kind and make kindness a long-term value. 

1. Learn to give compliments

A simple compliment such as, ‘You look nice today’ doesn’t take a lot of effort, but the benefits can be huge. Do you remember the last time a stranger paid you a compliment? Do you remember how you thought about it all day? You can brighten someone’s day the same way. It’s easy – there’s a positive quality to be found in everyone. Just make sure to keep your compliments appropriate and avoid things that might make the other person feel uncomfortable.

2. Surprise your loved ones with a spontaneous present

What’s a better way to show someone you’re thinking about them than making them a gift without a specific occasion? It can be something straightforward, such as a postcard that says: “Thank you for being an amazing friend” or buy them tickets to a movie you’ve heard they’d like to watch. Remember, small acts of kindness can be the building blocks of love and connection in any relationship.

3. Don’t put people down

No one is perfect, and there are some points of view you might never be able to understand. If you find yourself being judgemental of others, hold that thought. Judgement often comes from insecurity so, as you’re trying to develop into a kinder person, it should get easier to show supports towards others. Putting others down doesn’t just hurt them but also hurts yourself. If you frequently criticise other people, you train yourself to look for negatives in others and yourself. That might worsen your mood and increase stress in the long run. Next time a judgemental thought appears, ask yourself if it’s worth expressing it and consider the impact it might have on others (and yourself).

4. Offer to listen

Sometimes, all someone needs is to feel heard. Lending an ear costs you nothing but can make a significant change in someone else’s life. If someone opens up to you, pay attention to what they’re saying and express empathy with nonverbal cues. For example, try maintaining eye contact while they’re talking, and putting down your phone. Don’t interrupt them until they’re done talking and offer them support.

5. Smile at people

A simple smile can go a long way, and it’s a great reminder that kindness exists. Next time you pass someone who looks down, try offering them a gentle smile!

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If the festive period becomes too much, don’t be afraid to ask for help. At Therapy Central, we have qualified therapists that specialise in mental health treatments. Contact us for a free 15-min consultation to see if our help would fit your needs. 

More Readings 

How To Deal With Christmas Anxiety: Useful Tips

References:
[1] https://link.springer.com/

[2] https://greatergood.berkeley.edu

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