As part of Stylist’s Kindfulness Project, we are encouraging our readers to be more compassionate – to both themselves and others. Here, we offer up a few small ways that can help you to spread a little kindness with ease.
Living in a digital-focused world means showing a little kindness in person is not usually at the forefront of our minds.
But being compassionate is not only becoming cool in 2018, it’s also becoming commonplace, too.
Case in point: if you search the hashtag ‘kindness’ on Instagram, you’ll instantly be met with nearly five million posts.
And maybe that’s why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle asked the public to make a donation to charity, rather than give them a gift for their wedding. The couple, who wed in May, were keen to ensure “that as many people as possible benefit from this generosity of spirit”.
If kindfulness really is 2018’s mindfulness, then making a few small changes each day will benefit others (and yourself) in more ways than you realise.
“There is good evidence to show that acts of kindness increase happiness,” Lorraine Sherr, a clinical psychologist and professor at University College London tells stylist.co.uk. “Indeed this seems to persist when the kindness is shown to people close to you, people without close ties, and self kindness.
“Life satisfaction measures also go up when people engage in acts of kindness.”
So, here are a few small ways that can help you to spread a little kindness with ease.
1) Offer to help someone else
When was the last time you turned around and asked someone if they needed help? It sounds so simple, but offering to help another person is a small gesture that goes a long way.
In the office, it can sometimes feel like offering or asking for help is a sign of not being in control – but that mentality is outdated. In 2016, Harvard University announced that admissions to colleges were no longer focused on academic or after-school achievements, but on “meaningful ethical and intellectual engagement”. In other words, evidence of how potential students have helped others.
And it even extends to leadership roles in the workplace.
“Improved life satisfaction and happiness can act as a boost to career enjoyment and engagement,” says Sherr. “Kindness as a management style may have some benefits. It may reduce conflict, engage groups, facilitate others in the workplace and become a management and interpersonal strategy of high benefit to group situations and leadership.”
From offering up your seat on the tube to randomly buying your colleagues a sweet treat, helping others really can be that random, and that easy.
2) Pay it forward
There are more ways to financially help someone other than by donating money to charity.
Why not practice giving a ‘suspended coffee’ to a stranger? The Neapolitan tradition, which started during hard economic times in World War II, involves leaving a receipt for a paid coffee for the barista to gift to a stranger. In short: a nice, hot cup of goodwill.
And, in turn, you’ve helped yourself. Studies have shown that after doing a good deed, the human body produces endorphins (AKA happy hormones).
3) Turn your frown upside down
People should smile more, right? Living in a busy city, with inevitable daily commuting struggles, means that smiling doesn’t always come easy. But smiling is contagious. Imagine if everyone smiled on their way to work … cities would instantly become happier places to be.
And science tells us that people instinctively copy the facial expressions of others, so if you’re smiling, so is everyone else. Genuine smiling and laughter not only make us breath better, but they lowers blood pressure and heart rate, too.
4) Give up gossiping
You might not think it, but 70% of the time we share positive stories with other people – not negative ones like office gossip. Office gossiping might seem harmless, but it’s a dreadfully unkind act to partake in.
That’s why Dr. David R Hamilton, the author of The Five Side Effects of Kindness, thinks ‘survival of the fittest’ should be re-angled as ‘survival of the kindest’.
“Our ancestors thrived by working as communities. It wasn’t the strongest or fastest who survived – it was those who could work well with others. Study after study has overturned the idea that ‘nice people finish last’ in business.”
So, give up the gossip.
5) Be interested, not interesting
Being genuinely interested in what someone has to say shows a huge level of compassion and understanding towards another person. But living busy lives means we often fail to properly listen.
One way to achieve this would be to avoid using your phone while in company. Whether you’re out for dinner or simply chilling with a friend, it’s become commonplace to be on our phones all of the time.
But a recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia, found that using our phones during dinner actually makes us unhappy as it makes us feel distracted and less socially engaged.
“Phone use may be contagious. People are more likely to use their phones when others around them are also using their phones, so that suggests there may be this sort of domino effect,” says Elizabeth Dunn, the study’s senior author. “By putting your own phone away, you might be creating a positive domino effect.”
6) Slow down
To be kind to others, you also need to be kind to yourself. Many experts think that the growing trend for random acts of kindness stems from our increased interest in self-care.
While it’s perfectly okay to spend time on social media channels – studies have shown that positive posts trigger happiness in 64% of people – it’s also essential to set time aside for a digital detox, and to slow down.
“Self kindness sounds so simple and straightforward, yet is often a distant goal,” says Sherr. “Active efforts to be kind to one self, to take care, to essentially endorse mindfulness approaches can be of personal benefit. We are often the last person to be kind to – so busy doing, planning, stressing and trying, that we forget to be kind.”
Being kind to yourself and others will actually help you to relax, and take care of yourself, according to a recent study.
“It’s more of an attitude change – being alert to things you can do for other people and doing them spontaneously because you want to do them. It has a side effect of making you feel good,” says Lynn Alden, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.
However, the main reason for being kind should be a selfless act, first and foremost.
We are “hard-wired,” she says, to value one another’s happiness. “When others are happy, kind of through emotional contagion, we feel happier.”
So it’s true what they say, kindness really does make the world go round.
You can read more on how to give back through charities here.