News of shootings, terrorist attacks and the nastiness humans inflict on each other can leave you feeling heartbroken and powerless to impact what feels like a world gone mad. What can you do? While you and I may not be able to solve these overwhelming issues, we do control our own personal impact on the world. The great news is that doing all you can individually to bring a little light to those you touch in your daily travels makes a bigger difference than you know.
Kindness is Contagious
The happiness people derive from giving to others creates a positive feedback loop: The positive feelings inspire further generosity—which, in turn, fuels greater happiness. And research suggests that kindness is truly contagious: Those who witness or benefit from others’ acts of kindness are more likely to be kind themselves; a single act of kindness spreads from person to person to person to person.
But, just because we have the capacity for kindness, and reap real benefits from it, doesn’t mean that we always act with kindness. We may be too busy, distracted or wrapped up in our own concerns to seek out opportunities to be proactively kind. Or, we’re just out of practice. Kindness is like a muscle that will be strengthened through repeated use until it becomes your default impulse.
Here are a few easy ways you can build your kindness muscle:
1. Listen when someone is talking to you without looking at your cell phone. Focused attention is a lost art and makes the other person feel truly seen and heard.
2. Clean up after yourself in public spaces.
3. Smile at people.
4. Be polite on the road—even with less-than-polite fellow drivers. We’ve all inadvertently cut someone off—give other drivers the benefit of the doubt.
5. Hold the door open for the person coming up behind you.
6. Notice what’s working and make a point of mentioning it to the person responsible.
7. Write thank-you notes to people who positively impact your life.
8. Give grace to those who fall below your standards in any way by remembering a time (or two!) when you stumbled.
9. Ask if you can help the next time you see someone who looks down, frustrated or overwhelmed.
10. Assume the best about someone until proven otherwise, act accordingly.
Deb Purdy is the author of Something Gained: 7 Shifts to Be Stronger, Smarter & Happier After Divorce. For more information, visit DebPurdy.com.