Practicing Kindness Can Elevate Happiness And Reduce Stress
"Spread love everywhere you go.
Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
Kindness produces positive ripples, big and small.
These prompts can get you started:
- Send a note of encouragement
- Bring a co-worker coffee
- Give blood
- Donate books
- Pay-it-forward at the grocery store, gas station, etc.
It’s easy to be wary of hidden agendas, but the truth is that authentic kindness feels good. Scientists, like Dr. David Hamilton, Kindness Expert, can prove it by identifying the distinct cascade of chemical changes that occur in our bodies in response to kindness, physically altering our state.
When one person is kind, it tangibly affects everyone in the wake of that kindness. If you are kind, you receive the benefits, as well as the person on the receiving end of your act. In addition, it affects anyone that witnesses the act, and anyone who hears of the act from you, the receiver, or witness. In this way, one simple act can touch many lives, inspiring emotional contagion far beyond the initial kindness.
Giving a compliment, paying someone’s parking meter, offering a gentle touch, or a helping hand can increase optimism, improve mood and initiate feelings of belonging. Especially now, during the holiday season, we are reminded that connecting with, and caring for one another, can be both free and priceless.
Kind State of Mind
How we practice kindness can vary depending on cultural norms, traditions, values and beliefs, yet we can all begin within through the practice of Loving-Kindness meditation. This practice starts with you and is about extending unconditional kindness to all people and things. Combining the evidence-based benefits of kindness and meditation primes you for giving and receiving kindness freely throughout your day.
To experiment with this meditation:
- Sit somewhere comfortable where you can safely close your eyes
- Allow your breath to settle into a relaxed rhythm
- Notice any tension in your body, inviting it to melt away with each exhalation
- Use your imagination to conjure up images and feelings of physical and emotional wellness, inner peace and self-love
- Thank your body, mind and spirit for all that you are, embracing all aspects of yourself, without judgment
- With each inhalation imagine loving-kindness filling you up and spilling out into the world
- Envision yourself connecting to specific individuals through this feeling and perceive them feeling it as they connect with you
- Expand your connection until you have included everyone and everything on the planet (yes, even those with whom you have differences)
- If you would like, you can affirm, “I am kindness," “I give and receive kindness,” and any such sentiment that comes to your awareness
- Before closing your meditation, ask for inspiration to guide you in your kindness practice throughout your day
It’s OK if your thoughts wander. Simply return your attention to your breath and the warmth of loving kindness radiating from within you to others.
When beginning this practice, start with a few minutes each day, gradually increasing to 10+ minutes daily.
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