The 13th of November is celebrated annually around the world as World Kindness Day. First established in 1998 by The World Kindness Movement, the day aims to create a kinder world through inspiring individuals and nations to work towards greater kindness, but what actually is kindness? It’s defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate; as a recent Philosophy graduate, my mind instantly went straight to a popular quote from Plato:
“Kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch. It is anything that lifts another person”.
The reason I like this quote is that it moves away from viewing kindness as specific actions and focuses on kindness being an attitude; a characteristic inherent to being a human. So are we safe in saying that humans are naturally kind? Dr Oliver Scott Curry, an anthropologist based at Oxford University, has dedicated his career exploring scientific explanations of why we are kind; his studies have a common trend, this being that we as humans are naturally kind! Now there’s an argument that suggests this is primarily because performing acts of kindness has a positive affect on our wellbeing, which is definitely true. For instance, being kind is known to help reduce stress levels. Having said this, Dr Curry’s work shows that we aren’t just kind to benefit ourselves but because it’s our human instinct to want to see each other succeed and thrive.
This prompted me to think about the way those around me treat me with kindness. Some of the things I’ve listed below:
- My friends giving me little compliments throughout the day, such as telling me my hair looks nice (even when I really disagree).
- My friend recently gave me a beautiful plant she had actually grown herself to have on my desk in the office, completely unprompted but because she knew I’d like it.
- My friend from the UK recently sent me a card with “you are my sunshine” on the front in the post, which was the nicest surprise to come home to.
- My friends giving me random hugs (I’m a big hugger); note this is on the Isle of Man, where we are currently in the privileged position in which we do not have to practice social distancing. Please stay safe and follow social distancing guidelines for where you are!
This probably doesn’t sound like anything revolutionary but to me, these small acts of kindness hold the power to completely change the course of my entire day, week or month. No matter how small or how extravagant an act of kindness is, it is always appreciated even if silently.
Take a quick moment to think about the small things those around you do to treat you with kindness. You may have not considered that your colleague holding the door open for you is an act of kindness, or when your neighbour took your bin to the collection point for you because you forgot the night before. Now think about how these small acts made you feel – Good, right? These very small acts can often have the most impact, without us even realising.
This World Kindness Day I implore you to think about how you treat others with kindness. Consider the small and the big things you do on a daily basis and how your kindness impacts those around you. This might get you thinking that you’ve not done anything kind recently, but have you complimented a friend? Liked a local business’ post on Instagram? Let a stranger go in front of you in the queue for the bus? As mentioned, kindness is integral to who we are as humans, so it’s more than likely you are performing acts of kindness without even realising!
Lastly, it’s also important to consider how we are kind to ourselves! Have you ever noticed how much better we treat other people when we’ve taken care of ourselves? It’s easy to find ourselves overwhelmed with our commitments and subsequently our emotions; but the world often rights itself when we take a moment to breathe, assess what we need and seek it. Please be kind to yourself when you misstep, we’re human and if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself making mistakes daily. Take a bath, go for a run or even turn your phone off for half an hour. Whatever it is you need to do, be kind to yourself – you’re doing an amazing job.