The kindness revolution
At times it can feel like bad news is all around us – you just need to pick up a paper or turn on the television to find it. But what about the good stuff? Is that as easy to come by? Perhaps it’s no coincidence that, in response to negative news, a kindness movement has begun to gain momentum. Life coach Nicky Clinch (nickyclinch.com) defines kindfulness as “becoming present and conscious about spreading love and kindness wherever we go in our lives – both to ourselves and to others around us.” Acting with conscious kindness is an extremely healing, powerful and effective way of living. “Almost anything can grow, change and evolve through love and compassion,” says Nicky. The British–born Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm is a pioneer of the kindfulness movement – his teachings explore how mindfulness (non–judgemental awareness) can be more powerful with the addition of compassion and kindness. “Little acts of kindness are hugely powerful,” says Ajahn. “They make both you and others very happy, which is what we call an ‘instant karmic reward’.”
The theory is pretty simple – if we want to see improvements in the world around us, we have to start making changes ourselves. After paying for a strangers stamp at the post office, Bernadette Russell, author of The Little Book of Kindness (Orion Spring, £7.99), spent a year doing a random kind act every day, and what followed was the most wonderful and transformative time of her life. “Believe me – being kind to yourself, to strangers, to those you love, to the world, every day and at every opportunity, will make you happier and more connected to everything and everyone than you have ever been,” says Bernadette.
Make a change
Being kindful doesn’t need to cost a lot of money or be a huge disruption to your daily life – small, simple gestures can be easy to make. “Helping a frightened elderly person across the road safely, being more compassionate to the mobile phone provider on the other end of the customer service call, or giving up a seat to someone on the tube, and doing it with a smile and some love, is a great place to start,” says Nicky.
“Real love is an action, not just a thought. For the person on the receiving end, this act of love may stay with them for the rest of the day, week or month. It gives them, and us, more feelings of hope, connection, community and possibility. Just imagine if these were the things everyone on the planet felt every day and think what real, positive changes would be able to occur!” Bernadette encourages us to be intuitive and understanding. “Start by simply trying to think the best of people,” she says. “Focus on what we all have in common as human beings. We all need to eat and sleep; we all need shelter and love. We all have bad days. It’s not nice when the man at the train station pushes past you, but it is worth reminding yourself that you have no idea what he is going through. Notice when people are suffering and start to notice when you can help strangers out and take the opportunity to do so – perhaps on your daily journey to and from work or school.”
“I made a focused effort to connect”
Bernadette Russell brightens a stranger’s day
“A few months into my year of acts of kindness, I saw a gentleman on the bus wearing a very stylish hat. I told him so and we got talking. His name was Alvin and he told me he hadn’t spoken to anyone for a couple of days and was glad to chat. After that, I made a focused effort to connect with elders more. I still see Alvin and we have since become good friends – he has also become a positive influence on my hat choices!”
There is no time like the present! Follow Nicky Clinch’s top 3 ways to be kindful right now
1. Begin to catch yourself being judgemental to others and put yourself in their shoes. Showing compassion helps us see where someone else may be struggling – instead of judging, smile at them, let them through the door first or give them your seat to rest.
2. Look at others with eye contact and a smile, building an instant connection. It could be the shopkeeper behind the counter, the person at the petrol station till or someone walking down the street. Doing this helps others to feel seen, acknowledged and important, and that feels good.
3. Do one act of kindness for a stranger each day – pay for a stranger’s coffee, help someone down the stairs or strike up a conversation with a neighbour. It can be small and simple but, if it’s done consciously and with love, the meaning can go a very, very long way.