This week our prompt will be quick to read (and write), but I think it could well be one of the most powerful ones of the year.
It is to exercise your kindness muscle.
As with many of the suggested activities we've looked at in the preceding 26 weeks, practising kindness benefits not only those to whom we are kind but also us.
The Impact of Kindness
A 2019 study that asked participants to engage in seven days of 'kindness activities' towards friends, acquaintances and strangers found that doing so had boosted happiness and well-being in participants.
Acts of kindness have been found to increase self-esteem, improve mood, lower blood pressure and cortisol, reduce loneliness, improve relationships, and live longer lives.
Kindness also boosts serotonin and dopamine in your brain - it feels good and can release endorphins - our body's natural painkillers (source)!
Of course, we don't just practice kindness for our benefit - it makes a difference to those around us and often leads to a ripple effect - being on the receiving end of an act of kindness can be the impetus for passing on that kindness to others.
It's no wonder that kindness is something that all religions and philosophical traditions seem to hold central in their teaching.
7 Days of Kindness
So this week, my challenge is to practice kindness with those around us - both those we know and even strangers.
I say 'practice' kindness because I think it's one of those things that we can practice and build into a habit in our lives. It takes a little intention at first but gets into the habit, and it can have a huge impact!
It need not be a grand gesture (although those are good, too) - simple acts of kindness often have the biggest impact.
Aim for at least one extra act of kindness a day over the week (as in the study mentioned above).
- smile at everyone you meet on a shopping expedition
- bake some cookies for your workmates
- pay for the person behind you in the line for coffee
- give a gift to a friend
- offer a word of encouragement to someone who serves you in a shop
- treat a family member to a movie
- make an anonymous donation to a family that you know is in need
What you do is completely up to you but make a point of being kind this week to those you meet and take note of the change that flows from it both in others and in you.
Oh - and don't forget to be kind to yourself. Most of what we can do for others can also be expressed in kindness to ourselves.
Lastly, I recently came across this quote from the Dalai Lama, which I've been unable to get out of my mind. I thought it might be a good little motto for our week ahead.
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