For Mental Health Week 2020, the topic chosen by the Mental Health Foundation was Kindness. So let’s all take this time to learn how to be kind to ourselves and others because it benefits everyone, not just other people #KindnessMatters.
Before we get started, if you’re interested in what last year’s topic was, it was body image. If you’d like to read the post I created for that, you can do so by clicking here.
Kindness is an act of courage, an act of courage that matters. Kindness can change the life of one person, but it can also change the world. Kindness can bind us together like nothing else. It can bring us hope when there otherwise wasn’t any.
Delivering Kindness In A World That Never Taught You To Be Kind
I could have gone two ways with the abuse I suffered, and until I was properly broken, I could have ended up being the kind of person the person I am now would dislike. However, I’m a person that literally feels physical pain when I see someone else suffer both physically and mentally. Now all I want to do in life is to find ways to help people avoid the kind of suffering I went through (or any suffering in general), so they can live a better life than I do. That’s why I started writing this blog.
I’m still not perfect, far from it. My issues with forming and maintaining bonds due to my attachment issues and borderline personality disorder can make caring about others a complicated battle between being selfish and empathetic. But I’ll always fight that fight.
You don’t need to have been through a traumatic experience to see the world as lacking kindness. We all talk about and focus more on the negatives in life. Negative news sells. I can’t imagine what the news would look like if it only focused on the good, rather than the bad, in the world.
Let’s not forget the internet, where trolls come out to play to make everyone feel as bad as they do themselves. The amount of abuse some people can suffer, especially women, is staggering.
Although people of all genders can experience violence and abuse online, the abuse experienced by women is often sexist or misogynistic in nature, and online threats of violence against women are often sexualized and include specific references to women’s bodies
Kindness is a choice. We can choose to be kind or we can choose to be unkind. But if we choose to be unkind, then we’re also changing ourselves into a negative person. This will take its toll until we end up being a resentful and unkind person. The cure for this? Making the effort to be kind instead.
If anything, kindness matters more in an unkind world, as that’s the only way you’ll change it.
There are many things, people, and circumstances that will try to bring you down. Tear you down. Shake you. Don’t let them.
You don’t even have to do anything big, small acts of kindness are all it takes. The little things all add up. One person can make a difference to someone with one small, simple act of kindness.
However, being kind is great and worth pursuing, but make sure you’re protecting your personal boundaries. Otherwise, your kindness might be taken advantage of, and that too can have a negative impact on you (The Dangers Of People-Pleasing And Links To Abuse).
My Road To Kindness
When your entire childhood is a tale of racist abuse, speckled with physical abuse by a couple of your teachers (Suicidal Child #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek), and a mother that tells you you’ve ruined their life by being born (Happy Mother’s Day?), it’s hard to be anything other than damaged, let alone kind.
For years, I struggled with not killing myself. I would take stupid amounts of drugs and drug cocktails in the hopes I’d die high, or I’d destroy my intelligence completely.
“Kindness begins with the understanding that we all struggle.” – Charles Glassman Click To Tweet
Eventually, it all came to a head when I was arrested. It was about this time I decided I wanted to turn my life around and do something to help others.
But that’s not to say I wasn’t completely unkind during my darkest days. After all, I was very much a people-pleaser. But that’s not the same as seeking to be kind for kindness’s sake.
I was sentenced to probation and community service. As part of the community service, you could do educational classes to work off your hours, which I did. One of the educational components I took to work off my hours was a basic IT course. During this course, I often helped explain the basics to almost half the elderly members on the course, and showed them how to do various computer stuff, even though this wasn’t expected of me.
“Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life.” – Jackie Chan Click To Tweet
I’ve always had that urge to help, although it was most likely my people-pleasing (How To Stop Being A People-Pleaser) side that initially drove such a habit. But I was also held back by the weight of my mental health problems back then, which stopped me from properly putting others before myself because I wanted to, rather than because of some sort of people-pleasing need.
Anyway, I eventually got the idea to go to university and asked the person who was running the IT course (who knew I was on probation and there as part of my community service) if they’d write me a reference. They were happy too, and I got into university because of it.
After university, I looked for volunteer work, and I ended up working as a volunteer for a substance abuse charity. I worked with them as a volunteer for over four years before my physical health problems made it too difficult for me to provide the care my clients deserved.
I also worked for six months at a mental health charity as well. But unfortunately, they ended up losing their contract with the local council to provide the care.
I also do a food Bank donation each Christmas. I currently live on long-term sick benefits at the moment, but I know there are people in worse economic situations than me, especially at Christmas. So I try to do something to help at that time of year, as that’s the time most people go into debt.
How To Be Kind
Hopefully, these tips will help you to develop your kindness skills, help you to become a kinder person, and make society as a whole a kinder place.
Don’t judge people
Not judging people is hard, really hard. I judge everyone, I can’t help it, I’m hypercritical: I’ve been that way my entire life. Although I’m a far harsher critic of myself. But it might help to know that judging people and situations is part of our survival mechanism. We often have to make quick judgements in order to know if we’re safe or not.
However, I don’t let my judgements get in the way. I have the ability to change those judgements pretty easily and quickly. This is the real key to stopping judging people. Realising that these initial judgements are just that, initial, and unless they’re telling you to be careful as you’ve walked into a dangerous system, you should, by and large, ignore them (or at the very least be open to changing them).
So be mindful of your judgments and don’t let them get in your way. I keep my hyper critical thinking to myself and always try to be understanding, positive, and compassionate towards others.
Be kind to yourself
Often the hardest step to take, but also one of the most important. Treat yourself with the same kind of kindness as you treat others. Treat yourself, and others, with respect and gratitude. Praise yourself as you would offer praise to others. Life is hard enough as it is, so try not to add to that by being your own worse critic. I know it’s hard. I am my own worst critic by a country mile times 1000.
It never hurts to offer praise to someone else, and you might even make their day, or even their week, by offering it. I’ve had a few instances of happy words of praise that have stuck with me, although unfortunately, they don’t out weight the negative words that have stuck with me (Words That Stay With You Forever).
Also, for people like me who struggle with depression and other mental health problems (who can also hide it very well), such words can save a life.
Thus, offer praise to others, but don’t forget to offer yourself praise, too. You deserve praise as much as anyone else, so don’t leave yourself out.
In short, just be friendly, be honest (although not too honest, as that can often have the opposite effect of what you’re looking for), be open-minded, be tolerant, be approachable, and be personally authentic, there’s only one you.
Be a good listener
There are many ways to be a good listener. Most often, the only one you’ll really need is to just be there for the person to talk to and to just listen attentively. But you can also use active listening skills, which helps to build rapport and trust.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- But also ask specific questions when you need to seek clarification.
- Paraphrase what they’ve said to you in order to show you understand and are listening.
- Nonverbal cues, such as body language, and gestures like leaning forward, nodding, and engaging in eye contact.
- Short verbal affirmations that show you’re listening, such as saying: “I see” or “I understand”.
- Waiting to disclose your opinion, so don’t interrupt them when they’re sharing.
- If appropriate, disclose your own experiences to show understanding and let them know they’re not alone.
Being polite is an important social skill to have because it can help with all your relationships, work and social. The most important part of being polite is to just be aware and respectful of other people’s feelings. If possible, be mindful of other people’s cultural differences as well.
There are also the classics of politeness, like saying “please” and “thank you”, as well as saying sorry when you’ve done something wrong. You can also hold open a door or two: You can’t really go wrong if you have the basics locked down.
Politeness is an inexpensive way of making friends - William Feather Click To Tweet
Criticizing (constructive feedback)
Obviously, sometimes you’ll have to deliver comments that might hurt the other person. For example, if you’re in a situation where you need to address behaviours to foster change, then it’s about how you do that that can convey kindness. In such situations, choose a way to deliver constructive feedback that will cause the least amount of harm. There’s no reason to cause additional and unnecessary harm. For more tips on how you might achieve this, check out The Hard Truth About Eating The Criticism Sandwich.
A simple thing to do, for some people, is harder for others. I fit into the harder category. This is a hard one for me, as I can’t smile unless something causes me to smile. I can’t fake a smile at all, I can only smile naturally. Almost all pictures that exist of me won’t have me smiling in them.
But if you can, try smiling when greeting and talking to people. Smiles are a warm and friendly body language gesture that can grease the wheels of being seen as warm and friendly.
Your words carry weight
An important part of being kind is being mindful of your words, as words can hurt more, and for longer, than physical pain (Words That Stay With You Forever). So let the words that people will remember you for be kind words, rather than hurtful ones.
Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much - Blaise Pascal Click To Tweet
A psychological theory (Positive psychology: The Theory And Its Interventions) I wrote about a year ago can be useful for learning to be kind. Positive psychology interventions are a good way to practise kindness for yourself, but also to practise kindness towards others.
It’s time we stopped hating people simply because they produce more or less melanin than you, have ginger hair, a body type you don’t like, has a disability, or are from a different culture than you. Living is hard enough without these meaningless views getting in the way. Don’t be afraid of the other.
Address your own pain
Often we want to hurt others because we’re in pain, which is probably why a lot of online trolls do what they do. If this feels like something you’ve done, or you have the urge to hurt others because you’re hurting, then acknowledge your pain. Then try to deal with your pain so you don’t take it out on others, and if you need to, reach out for support.
Visit my Global Crisis Lines And Support and UK Crisis Lines And Support page for a list of crisis and helpline services that might help you to learn to deal with your pain. You could also check what services are available locally to you for in-person help.
Remember, you deserve kindness too, so be kind to yourself as well as being kind to others.
Pay it forward
Kindness is contagious, but if you really want to spread kindness, then paying it forward is an interesting little movement. Instead of simply accepting or returning an act of kindness done to you, you instead engage in an act of kindness for someone else, often a stranger passing by in the night.
Unfortunately, due to the current situation, we all find ourselves in with the coronavirus, a lot of the above advice can’t be used at the moment. But don’t worry, I’ve got some kindness tips for this situation as well.
- Setting up group chats and video chats.
- Checking in on family and friends with a call or a message.
- Helping vulnerable people by doing their shopping for them.
- Help vulnerable people feel less isolated by finding a way to connect with them, whilst adhering to the lockdown guidelines.
- Now is the time to share your memes, pet pictures, and your other funny videos and pictures.
- Arrange to watch a film or TV show at the same time, and either message or video chat as you watch it.
- Break out the dad jokes and start sending them to people you know.
- Arrange and pay for a takeaway for someone.
- Provide your time to allow people to talk if they’re struggling with the lockdown.
- See what activities you can do with your family and friends online. There are exercise classes and dance classes you can do live as a group online. You can also join an online pub quiz or create your own and share it with your friends and family.
- Do something nice with the people you’re in lockdown with. Never hurts to get to know them better.
- You could donate money to a charity.
- You could even buy a blogger a coffee.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences of practising kindness or receiving kindness in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.