For the majority of us, unless perhaps you are an experienced and devout meditator or have an austere contemplative practice, our waking lives are accompanied by perpetual mental monologues which frequently become internal dialogues. This commentary is incessant, and quickly sputters off into a myriad of directions before doubling back on itself, often caught in negative loops of perception. What meandering musings and diatribes are frequent denizens of your mind? Does the following sound familiar?
“After work, don’t forget to stop to pick up dog food.”
“I wonder what Fido is up to?”
“I should get one of those Virtual Pet Cams, I could spy on Fido during the day.”
“I really shouldn’t spend money on a Virtual Pet Cam, I’m already tight on bills as it is.”
“If I got paid what I’m worth, then I wouldn’t have to worry about my bills all the time.”
“It’s really not fair that Amy gets picked for all the good projects, she probably got a raise and everyone knows she spends half of her day on SnapChat.”
“Was Brian being a flirt in that Snap I got from him?”
“Oh wait, what was I supposed to pick up after work?”
“Ugh, when will this day be over? It’s 3pm?! I need to get this report done.”
“Amy never gets her reports done on time, but reliable people are never appreciated.”
“Oh dog food, get dog food.”
“Back to my report…”
And on and on this type of mental exchange ensues. Notice how frequently the thoughts are negative, the penchant for the ego to assert your demands, needs, and “justified” perceptions? We are so weighted by these inner machinations, that combined with our overfilled and high-stress lifestyles we are driving ourselves to both poor lifestyle choices and both mental and physical health issues. Predicted by our negativity bias, the “bad stuff” is the easiest to believe and thereby haunts our mental realms.
So if we’re collectively inclined to be “hard on ourselves,” then what we need to counterbalance this predisposition is a healthy dose of kindness. Kindness to ourselves, both mentally and physically, and kindness to everyone we encounter. You hear about cultivating a practice of gratitude to help reframe perceptions of reality, kindness is no different. It’s easy to get started and frankly not overly difficult to maintain.
Here are Quick Tips for Becoming a Beacon of Kindness:
- Get your head out of your smartphone when you are walking around in public, not only is it safer, but it will give you an opportunity to acknowledge people that you pass. A head bob, smile, eye contact, whatever feels appropriate and comfortable. Sure, some people will ignore you, but kindness should be given with no expectation of its result or impact.
- How many times are we quickly to criticize (regardless of whether it’s verbalized)? Reverse that habit, when you catch yourself in a cycle of nitpicky negativity, stop, breath, and look for things that you appreciate in the individual, and then tell them! Our collective difficulty with giving and receiving praise surreptitiously undermines our relationships, and is often contrary to the love and value we have for individuals in our lives. This same advice applies to yourself, everytime your negative mental chatter denigrates who you are as an individual, retort with ways that you are awesome!
- Giving and receiving are intrinsically intertwined, yet ensconced in fear or past hurts, we have a tendency to retreat behind protective emotional walls. While these walls may serve to lessen the likelihood of pain, they concurrently serve to insulate us from opportunities of connection, joy, and receiving. Start small, give a compliment, share your baked goods with office mates, offer a gift card to a family in need, etc. Notice how your willingness to give, will slowly open you to receiving acts of kindness in return!
- Snail mail and actual hand-written thank you cards. Most people are self-aware enough to extend thanks to others when it is due, yet the old-fashioned art of a brief, yet heartfelt thank you card has been a dying art. It seems like the only mail we receive these days are bills, junk, or solicitations, so it’s doubly exciting and in fact novel to receive personal mail! Commit kindness to the page and send it out.
- By now, most of us are familiar with the concept of Pay It Forward, so why haven’t you?
As I once stood in line at an eatery, the stranger in front of me bought a cookie and turned around to give it to me, he said he hoped it would make my day. In fact, I was in a miserable mood, this small gesture of kindness indeed turned around my mood and my day! A 99 cent cup of coffee, holding the door for others, there are a variety of ways to surprise others and give with no intention of receiving anything other than the sentiment of kindness perpetuated.
With an act of kindness, no matter the size, there is an opportunity to offer momentary respite to another person’s mental chatter which more than likely has a penchant to tend towards the negative. Concurrently, we get a little boost of happiness in both our random and planned acts of kindness. Together, receiving and giving, we subtly reinforce the notion that not everything is a threat in life, indeed, should we choose to see it, there is abundance all around us. Once you start shifting your perspective it is difficult to understand how you ever saw things another way.
So give kindness in plenitude, plant seeds of positivity, and together we can step towards a world with less fear, more joy, and a healthy dose of love!