Given the profoundly disturbing news that circulates each day on topics such as war, corruption, environmental degradation, medical crises, poverty and crime, it can feel natural to begin to believe that the world is a cruel, dreadful place. Psychologists also tell us that we are more likely to notice and remember negative events, BUT kindness is everywhere. We just need a gentle reminder, every once in a while, to remain believers in the essential goodness of people and that we have unquestionably more in common than those things that divide us.
Cultivating Empathy, Curiosity, and Kindness by Enhancing Human Connection and Wellbeing
When we can empathise with others, irrespective of whether they believe in and value the same things, whether we have similar experiences, heritage, languages, or aspirations, we are more inclined to accommodate differences and relish opportunities to learn from one another. When we are curious rather than judgemental, when we actively listen rather than talk about ourselves and when we are patient enough to understand, we are enriched. We grow and can then contribute, in meaningful ways, to our shared world.
Think about the last time you did a favour for someone without them requesting it. How did it make you feel? Practising small acts of kindness can, in fact, have disproportionate benefits for the recipient whilst simultaneously benefiting our health and quality of life.
Fostering Genuine Kindness and Its Impact on Wellbeing
In his book ‘Give and Take’ Adam Grant explores the concept of the ‘five-minute favour’ viewing this as a critical factor in success. If we want to feel more powerful connections with one another, to feel accepted and valued, sound advice is to build doing favours for others into a habit. This aligns with one of the Visible Wellbeing pathways = Habits and Goals = in the S.E.A.R.C.H. model. If we commit to doing this, our overall wellbeing will be boosted in ways we cannot even quantify.
Being kind, though, is not simply buying our friends their favourite chocolates on their birthday or ‘liking’ a popular author’s tweet. The article The why of kind and how kindness can help our mental health by Converge International (2022) explains that: ‘The art of kindness means harbouring a spirit of helpfulness, as well as being generous and considerate, and doing so without expecting anything in return. The authors cite Hugh Mackay’s book ‘The Kindness Revolution’: who proposes that: “The deepest sense of life’s meaning and purpose arises from our interdependence and, in turn, our willingness to relate to others and respond to their needs”. This altruism is not predicated upon obligation, duty, guilt or in response to being instructed to do so, rather about a genuine concern for others.
Promoting Acts of Kindness: Embracing a Culture of Compassion
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, 2019) aims to normalise kindness – at home, at school and at work. Their webpages are loaded with novel and manageable ideas for exhibiting kindness and ways to enact favours, including those for ourselves.
So, act favourably towards people, even those for whom you don’t feel the closest of affinities. Let the driver alongside you scoot ahead in the traffic jam, give the last hot dog on sausage sizzle day to a Year 2 who forgot to order one, re-direct the letter that inadvertently arrived in your letter box rather than recycling it and share your class notes with your peer when they’re absent from school. Donate blood, praise the efforts of your supermarket attendant, laugh at a colleague’s less-than-hilarious joke and send someone who is struggling a card reassuring them they’re not alone. Speak up for someone being tormented by bullies, donate to the Christmas drive for the homeless and ring your grandparents just to say “Hello’.
World Kindness Day
November 13, 2013, is World Kindness Day (Government of Western Australia 2022). If we can all reflect upon our own intentions when doing favours to ensure they are underpinned by kindness, as well as take care to attend to our own important needs, we will be well on the way to becoming quiet role models for goodness.
Christine Rowlands, School Councilor
Government of Western Australia 2022, World Kindness Day – 13 November 2022, Mental Health Commission – Western Australia. https://www.mhc.wa.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media/news-updates/world-kindness-day/
Random Acts of Kindness Foundation 2019, Random Acts of Kindness, Random Acts of Kindness. https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/
Converge International 2022, The why of kind — how kindness can help our mental health, Converge International. https://convergeinternational.com.au/resources/the-why-of-kind-how-kindness-can-help-our-mental-health/