It’s December, it’s raining and the sun refuses to get out of bed before 8am and disappears beneath its black duvet shortly after 4pm. There is traffic everywhere and your diary is jam-packed with places to go and people to see. It’s definitely the season to be jolly – and jolly well stressed.
I find this time of year can be a roller-coaster. It’s fun, energising, melancholic and exhausting in equal measure. For me, doing my thing (reading any book I can get my hands on, writing and running) is as important as being with those close to me.
In all the busyness, rushing here and there, what also provides the festive feel-good factor is taking time each day to be kind.
Studies have shown being kind helps increase our wellbeing, something which directly effects our happiness levels too.
It’s easy to see kindness as the physical gestures (presents on Christmas Day) or quick-fire platitudes which are heartfelt but thin on detail (‘great job – keep up the good work’).
Kindness is steeped in philosophical and biblical history, pervading historical epochs and cultures. Without trying to evangelise here, there is opportunity to be kind everywhere; you just need to make it a part of your day.
I’m making a much more conscious effort to be kind; not ostentatiously so, but in ways that feel natural and easy. It’s not about public performances or proclamations about kindness completed (‘oh hey, I’ve done EIGHT random acts of kindness today folks! Check me out!’) but rather we all go about it in quieter ways where the action we take is held within ourselves, squirrelled away in a pretty box of precious trinkets.
Need ideas? Here are a few simple ways to show kindness.
Scribble a handwritten note. You may routinely send Christmas cards to people you’ve not seen for most the year. Take the opportunity to write a note saying what you’d been up to and you’re thinking of them.
Say sorry. The challenging conversation that got all heated? You may have been right, you may not have. Ask yourself: Does it matter? The mere act of apologising for letting it get to that point lifts a cloud and leaves you feeling lighter, brighter and walking that little bit taller.
Contact two people who made you feel good this week and let them know why this was important. Be specific about what they did and what feelings it evoked in you.
Donate to charity. This time of year sees charity collectors hovering in doorways of supermarkets shaking buckets while it buckets down with rain. Don’t walk past – go over, say hi, and tip some pennies in.
Give someone you love a big hug. A study has shown that hugs release Oxytocin, a chemical associated with happiness. Hugs make us feel close to another person and are a gentle way of communicating through touch and affection. People even give out free hugs at festivals and parties. Wrap yourself around someone and release the cuddle hormone!
Give way. You’re at the end of a ‘merge in turn’ lane and the red mist descends when some dude in an BMW (it’s nearly always a dude and nearly always a BMW) jostles to get ahead of you. But wait! You’ve already let another motorist merge before him! Mr Beemer isn’t playing fair and you want to swear and shout, perhaps even put your foot down so he has to slam on the brakes. Ha! That will show him, right? Wrong! Cool it and take a deep breath. Smile, give way and be mellow in the merge.
Leave a tip. Show your appreciation for excellent service. There’s no need to be all showy-offy, loudly asserting that you’re tipping on top of the already-included service charge. Just be discreet and enjoy the internal glow of self-satisfaction.
Compliment someone on a job well done. Be vocal in your praise and highlight the areas where they excelled and save any criticism – even constructive – for private.
Do someone a favour. Nothing says altruism more than the sentence ‘Would you like me to….”?
“Do to others what you would want them to do to you” – (Luke 6:31)
“Act with kindness but do not expect gratitude” – Confucius
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you” – Princess Diana
What little acts of kindness do you do? I’d love to know – post your comments here.