When Lady Gaga (pictured) recently told her fans that kindness – not wealth and fame – is what creates harmony in the world she may have been on to something.
Research has shown that being kind makes us happier and also is contagious, inspiring others to be kind as well. For example, one such study published in the Journal of Social Psychology linked performing acts of kindness to an increase in life satisfaction.
That’s why as people make their resolutions for the coming New Year, they should make up their minds to commit purposeful acts of kindness every day, says Gabriella van Rij, a kindness activist and author whose latest book is Watch Your Delivery.
“Making kindness a habit changes lives – your own life and others,” van Rij says. “I believe we’re born with innate kindness, but we’ve just forgotten about it because we’re always running. We’re just too busy doing other things and we need to remind ourselves to be kind.”
She says we as a society have dropped the ball on human kindness and it’s time we picked it back up.
“I truly believe that we are all born with innate kindness, but then the hand that feeds us or the environment makes us abandon it pretty fast,” van Rij says. “By the time we are 5, we have learned to compete and to strive for success. It’s time for a new measuring stick for success.”
She says by following a four-step process, people can put a little more kindness in the world and quickly fall into the habit of committing kindness every day:
- Be kind to yourself. It’s hard to have the patience to be kind to others if we can’t even take the time to be kind to ourselves. “This might seem selfish, but it’s not,” van Rij says. “By being kind to ourselves, we shape our attitude toward others.”
- Answer rudeness with kindness. This one is difficult, van Rij acknowledges. “When someone is rude to you, the first thing you do is instantly react and not always in a positive way,” she says. “And the second thing you do is say it’s about me. They were nasty to me.” But van Rij says it’s not about you, it’s about the emotion. By answering rudeness with kindness, you diffuse the situation and there’s also a certain satisfaction in seeing the change in the attitude of the person who was rude.
- Watch your delivery. The tone that accompanies your words is as important as what you are saying. Do you need to soften your tone? Does what you say sound more aggressive than what you mean? Body language also can send a message you didn’t intend, so be aware of your body language and your facial expressions.
- Acknowledge kindness when you see it. When you acknowledge the kind acts you see, that person will be encouraged to continue to spread kindness. Acknowledging kindness in others also will serve as a reminder to you about how you can show kindness.
“Unfortunately, one of the reasons we don’t always treat each other well is that we are a fear-based society, and fear only breeds more fear,” van Rij says. “But luckily there is an antidote because just as fear breeds more fear, I believe kindness grows more kindness.”
Gabriella van Rij, www.gabriella.global, is a speaker, author and activist whose latest book, Watch Your Delivery, explores how we often fail in communicating. She began her life as an orphan in Pakistan, and today is a frequent guest on TV and radio. She also is the author of I Can Find My Might and I Can Find My Might.