Kind Of Easy
Being Thoughtful and Nice Really Helps
By Cecily Hastings
Agood life is achieved with habits that bring happiness and well-being. Eat healthy. Move your body. Sleep well. Develop meaningful relationships. To those time-tested strategies I’ll add another. Cultivate kindness.
Three years of pandemic and lockdowns didn’t help a society well on its way to being far less connected and more self-absorbed.
One way out of this mess is for each of us to reconnect with the idea of shared kindness. It’s all about being aware of your impact on the world.
Some people are born with a sense of kindness. Others have to work at it. One thing to keep in mind is that kindness is about giving of yourself. There’s no expectation of reciprocity.
Kindness isn’t always about being nice or friendly. It’s about being aware of others and knowing your interactions have a profound impact. Spreading kindness has a positive ripple effect.
When you are kind to someone with no expectation of anything, you experience the “helper’s high.” Serotonin rises. Blood pressure drops. As your body releases oxytocin—the love and bonding chemical—the effect is a boost to your cardiovascular system. As a bonus, your body makes endorphins, natural painkillers.
If you tend toward anxiety, kind acts can help. Your mood becomes more positive, your confidence increases. Kindness shifts you from a single-point perspective, where it’s easy to be consumed by personal problems and obstacles, into a more shared experience.
Experiencing grief after my husband Jim died in January left me isolated and depressed. A small group of friends and family showed kindness at every turn. Phone calls, cards, flowers, visits and invitations—they held me together.
To pick myself up in those dark times, I mailed cards to friends and loved ones who offered kindness in my grief. I expressed gratitude. When I took the cards to the mailbox, my mind was transformed to a better place. Days later, their responses were heartwarming.
Every morning a neighborhood gentleman tosses my Wall Street Journal from the sidewalk up onto my porch mat. One morning I caught him in the act and thanked him. He said he loved to start each day helping someone out. Each day I think of him.
Kindness is a universal language, one of the easiest to exchange. No backstory, explanation or social dance. When you commit an act of kindness, you live in the moment, don’t think about the past or future. It’s a powerful gesture when loneliness is rampant.
When Jim could no longer drive, just before 2020 lockdowns, I had to fit much more into my schedule. I realized how much he did to keep our household and small business humming. The first few weeks were miserable. Our business was at risk of meltdown.
After one complicated shopping trip, I came home exhausted. Jim stood on the porch, ready to empty the car and put everything away. “I’m so envious that you get to do the shopping now,” he said. Why? “Because every errand is an opportunity to cheer up the poor clerks that have to work through this damn pandemic.”
I instantly reframed the task and began to savor the job. I now call clerks by name. I smile and look them in the eye. Jim always did! I channel his energy and return from errands to a far better emotional place.
Kindness is contagious. Acts of kindness stimulate feel-good chemistry in others. Imagine if everyone embraced kindness every day. We’d have a kindness pandemic.
Nelson Mandela said, “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return.” To which I add, kindness is a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.
We all have challenges. There’s no need to add to anyone’s difficulties with harsh words or behavior. The ancients said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting some type of a battle.”
Cecily Hastings can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook and on Instagram: @insidesacramento.