Time to use them!
Originally published here: https://medium.com/illumination/kindness-and-gratitude-are-your-super-powers-f94d9c8d8817
Every night when I listen to the man in my bedtime meditation app, he asks if I did something nice today or if anyone was kind to me. He tells me that thinking about acts of kindness and gratitude will help me go to get a good nights sleep.
Some nights I lie there, I ponder over the day that has passed, and I struggle to think of anything at all. On the days when I can remember something nice even the smallest act, it feels extraordinary.
This is because it’s so rare.
2020 Is The Year We Are Trying to Find Our Way
So much strength has been expended in so many important endeavours that we are burnt out. It feels like we have collectively given up, maybe that’s because we have a bit. I know that sounds terrible, I don’t mean that we’re all abhorrent humans going around being awful to one another. We’re doing alright, we are existing, perfectly politely, but that’s all. It’s the bare minimum, no going above and beyond, we’ve used that energy for other stuff.
Even though for some, things haven’t changed that dramatically, the atmosphere has, and anyone with a reasonable level of emotional intelligence will understand that it’s impacting us all. 2020 has been challenging, depressing, bizarre and relentless.
That’s why it’s all the more important to make that little bit of extra effort.
In a recent study of over 2000 staff globally, Qualtrics found the following:
53.8% report being more emotionally exhausted
53.0% report increased feeling of sadness in day to day life
50.2% report being more irritable
42.9% report feeling generally more confused
38.1% report increased insomnia
32.3% report increased anger
24.4% report increased feelings of guilt
It’s a perplexing new world. On the one hand, we are still doing all the things we did before on the other we have the additional responsibility of the pandemic, something that none of us signed up for.
It’s like a very persistent cloud is pursuing us, it’s threatening to rain, and at some point, it will, but we don’t know when, so we just have to continue as best as we can, and prepare for the fact that we might get wet.
We Are Searching for Something to Soothe Us
I can’t remember what lead me to the video below, but it took me quite some time to regain my composure. I needed to experience something nice, kind, selfless, and I found solace in this clip.
I’m not alone, my social media feeds are flooded with stuff like this. People need to believe there is good in the world; they need to feel it.
Benevolence and gratitude are playing second fiddle to survival, and yes that’s understandable, but what if we can have them all?
Being Kind and Grateful Is Good For Us
Being kind is rewarding, it makes people feel nice, it makes them happy, and the same can be said for gratitude, it benefits both the giver and receiver exponentially.
Gratitude always takes me back to the film Pollyanna and her things to be glad for, but you know what, she’s onto something. It doesn’t matter how sh*tty your day is; I bet you have something to be grateful for.
‘when we take time to notice the things that go right — it means we’re getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day’ — Martin Seligman
Did you know that every time a person gives or receives kindness or gratitude, it releases dopamine in the brain? Dopamine is a happy drug, a reward drug, you get a reward for being kind and appreciative, and that is good for your health.
‘Positive psychology and mental health researchers in the past few decades have established an overwhelming connection between gratitude and good health’ — The positive psychology site.
Person A — ‘You look nice today, did you change your hair?’
Person B — ‘Thanks so much I wasn’t sure it suited me’
Both person A and B got their little reward for kindness and gratitude. In fact, both people got double rewards because of reciprocation. Isn’t that amazing? Just for making a little tiny bit of effort.
To Give and Receive
I recently went to visit my partner in the hospital after he had a major operation. Whilst I was in the ward there was a huge storm, and I came out to find the car park completely flooded. My scooter can make it through floods, but only if I keep moving. A car pulled in front of me at the exit forcing me to stop right in the middle of the flooding, it was much deeper than I anticipated, it came up past my knees, my bike stalled and I knew at that point I would be pushing it 3km uphill in the pouring rain to my house.
Then something magical happened.
A kindly man and his little brother who were driving their scooter truck home offered me a push. He put a foot onto one of my footrests and off we went; I explained I needed to turn, he said ok and turned, in fact, he pushed me all the way home, no questions asked — a huge detour.
Even though I thanked them both repeatedly, I simply could not express how grateful I was; I was soaking wet, exhausted and smiling from ear to ear.
To this day, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy, just thinking about it.
Isn’t it awful that things are so dysfunctional right now, that it can be difficult to remember any kindness?
It doesn’t have to be that way, you can take the power back right now, if people aren’t kind to you, you can’t force that, but you can still be kind.
‘Things could change so entirely, in a heartbeat; the world could be made entirely anew, because someone was kind.’ — Jo Baker, Longbourn
Isn’t that so true?
It doesn’t have to be something big either, the little things all count; you have the opportunity to change someones day for the better, so why wouldn’t you?
It’s really this simple:
- Hold open a door
- Let someone out at the lights
- Compliment someone
- Call up a friend or relative you’ve not spoken to for a while
- Write someone a letter or postcard
- Say thank you (always)
- Focus on the good things from the day passed
Sometimes you will be kind, and the recipient might not be grateful, they might not appreciate or notice what you did they might not thank you. Don’t let that put you off — that’s fine.
You’re not doing this for something in return; it’s their loss because as we have now established gratitude is just as important as kindness. They have had the opportunity to be grateful if they decided not to be, then that is their choice.
Don’t think that because your kindness went unnoticed makes you any less of a person, on the contrary. To continue to be kind when it’s not acknowledged or appreciated can be hard, upsetting even depending on the circumstances.
So when you are feeling a little bit wounded by the lack of reciprocation remember that they are the ones that are missing out on sharing that extra little bit of joy, they could have spread it a little further just by a simple ‘thank you’.
‘A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.’ — Amelia Earhart
This is Your Gift and Super Power
It’s a strength to respond to things with kindness.
Think about the time someone was short and snapped at you. It’s much easier to retaliate with an equally aggressive response.
What good does that do? You end up in a heated discussion or argument.
Imagine how the situation would change if you were compassionate and just asked them if they were alright instead?
‘If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. Don’t ever mistake my silence for ignorance, my calmness for acceptance or my kindness for weakness.’ — The Dalai Lama
You have the ability to make peoples days, to cheer people up, to restore faith in humanity. You! If everyone that reads this decides to be a bit more mindful, make this change, and they tell a friend, imagine what we could accomplish?