Cultivating kindness

How to cultivate kindness as a superpower

In a world of seven billion unique people of all different cultures and customs, it is easy to feel as though we don’t have much in common.

Alternatively, in a world of seven billion unique people who all experience happiness, heartache and hope we can feel as though we are all connected. It is from this place of commonality, only visible through our own empathy, that we empower kindness.

Kindness is being brave enough to step into another’s shoes. It can look like holding the door open for someone, smiling at a stranger or taking the time to check in with a friend. It can also look like going against the crowd, taking the harder option or standing up for your values, leaving yourself open to be criticised or judged.

Last week I was having coffee with my friend in a café and noticed a pregnant woman at a table near us crying. Without making it look too obvious I told my friend to casually look her way and give me some validation that she was in fact crying. After we both agreed that this woman was distressed, I felt a tightening in my chest and thought, “I don’t want to make her uncomfortable,” and “I’m sure she’s fine, those pregnant hormones must be making her emotional.” I felt uncomfortable and both my friend and I didn’t know what to do. All of a sudden, I felt the wave of fear and loneliness wash over me, as I put myself in her position. I stood up immediately and went over, knelt down beside her and asked, “Are you OK?” She said she was, but her face and tears spoke louder than her words. I put my arm around the woman and told her that she wasn’t alone any more. I’d left my insecure, minding-my-own-business self at the other table and noticed the woman beginning to calm with my presence. She asked me to call an ambulance because she was suffering from hypertension. She’d experienced it in her previous pregnancy.

Reflecting on that experience reminds me that kindness can be uncomfortable at times, but reaps invaluable rewards, strengthening your bond with common humanity.

So how can we get intentional about cultivating more kindness into our lives?

1. Be kind to yourself

The flight safety video instructs you to fix your oxygen mask first, before helping others with theirs. This is exactly how self-care works. You need to invest in your own wellbeing before you can help others. Looking after yourself through prioritising self-care is the foundation for positive growth. Practising mindfulness builds on this foundation by helping you identify negative self-talk that hinders your ability to be kind to yourself. When you are kind to yourself, you have a greater capacity to be kinder towards others.

2. Practise creativity

What does creativity have to do with being kind? Well, according to science, creativity and empathy are housed in the “non-dominant” hemisphere of the brain. Creative endeavours like gardening, sewing, blogging, teaching kids soccer or baking, for example, are processes fraught with challenges, failures and frustrations. By employing empathy, first with yourself and then with others during these daily activities, your capacity for kindness expands.

3. Receive kindness from others

We often associate kindness with giving, and in a world where we equate success with not needing any help, we’ve attached a stigma to those who need it. The truth is, however, that you need to both give and receive without reluctance in order to experience real connection. Social scientist and researcher Dr Brené Brown says, “Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart.”

4. Assume people are genuinely trying their best

There is going to be a number of times when your patience wears thin when someone cuts you off in traffic, criticises your parenting, makes fun of your appearance or forgets to call you back. Regardless of whether these people were trying to disappoint you on purpose or not, the assumption of positive intent keeps you non-judgemental and kind to others. According to Dr Brown’s research, someone who genuinely believes that people are doing their best is more compassionate and kind.

Being intentional about giving kindness means adopting kindness into your hearts and holding it with integrity. This means you will probably need to step outside of your comfort zone to truly cultivate kindness as a daily habit. Just like any good habit, kindness is a practice. So be patient and open your awareness to help identify moments where you can be more kind.

Be brave and kind, because in a world of seven billion unique people, I am not alone, and neither are you.

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart.”

Maddie Dimech is a wellness and personal growth blogger who is passionate about cultivating meaningful experiences. She runs Project Bloom and created The Intentional Living Playbook to guide you to discover your gifts, align with your values and set intentional goals to better connect with yourself, others and the world.

Maddie Dimech

Maddie Dimech

Find more from Maddie here:

http://www.projectbloom.com.au
@projectbloom_aus

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