7 Ways to Add Kindness & Calm to Your Life
Consider these 7 suggestions for bringing kindness and calm to your day, to your life, to the world. The invitation is to practice, test, experiment and notice what is different, opened and called forth when you pay attention in these ways. Try one a day for the next week!
1) Tell someone special that they are someone special
There may be nothing quite as treasured as the feeling we get when we are told that we truly matter, that we contribute unique value and that we are recognized for it. Feeling genuinely appreciated lifts people up and at the most basic level, it helps people feel safe. When we share our appreciations, we light up other people and we, in turn, get lit up. The positive energy is contagious. I wrote about that in another blog post, Life Lessons at Lunch. How often do we think a grateful thought, or quietly acknowledge a good deed or helping hand and not express it? What would happen if we gave voice to them? If we let them out rather than held them in? What would that invite? Telling someone special that they are someone special is a profound act of kindness and frees us from having regret. When we share our appreciations, it is best to make it specific rather than generic since specificity makes it more meaningful and special. If you find it difficult to express appreciation and gratefulness to others, it could be because you find it hard to appreciate yourself. If this feels accurate, it might suggest that practices to bolster self-love and self-acceptance would help in more ways than one.
Notice what changes emotionally when you do this for someone and for you.
2) Leave a love note to yourself in a place you’ll forget you put it
There are times when we need to hear loving words and encouragement and it doesn’t have to come from external sources. Consider what it would be like to find a little note tucked away in the pocket of your spring jacket or the zippered pouch in your carry-on suitcase that speaks kindly, supportively and directly; reminding you of the gifts you bring, the courage you possess and the goodness you harbor. To get started, reflect on what you might tell a friend or loved one if they were struggling or being hard on themselves. Think about what you most yearn to hear from other people in your life, and write those exact sentiments to you. Find an inconspicuous place to put the love note – somewhere you won’t visit for a while – and carry on with your day. When you come across it, relish in the love you’ve bestowed on your self.
Notice how it feels to have done this for you.
3) Drive the speed limit and allow the energy of fast drivers to move past instead of getting swooped up in it
Driving can be a stressful experience for many people. Are you one of them? Ever notice the state of your energy, heart rate and mind when you are rushing to get somewhere on time? Pay attention to the kind of inner dialogue, harsh judgments and the sensations in your body (like a knotted stomach, tight jaw, constricted breath, or clenched hands around the steering wheel) when you’re informally racing another driver to the next traffic light or “trapped” behind a slower moving vehicle. Driving is an activity where bullying behavior shows up, sometime inadvertently and sometime not. Check in with yourself to see how you behave on the roads. Try moving over to the right…and…just…slow…down a little. Let that other car merge, move in front, change lanes. And smile while you wave them in.
Notice what happens to your body, your thoughts and your perspective when you allow the stressful, angry energy of aggressive drivers move on while you chill out and actually in-joy the drive from A to B.
4) Make up the most generous interpretation for another person’s behavior
When there is a lack of information, we make up our own story to fill in the gap. It’s common for us to believe and expect the worst (ahem, negativity bias anyone?) and to assume other people have questionable intentions or even cruel motivations. This is normal and so very human. And it’s not the only way. As we build our awareness of this tendency, we can choose to practice consciously choosing to give someone the benefit of the doubt. We can seek more information to clear up our spotty understanding and we can purposefully craft an interpretation that is generous, compassionate and kind in the absence of clarity. Next time you are disappointed or frustrated by someone, think about possibilities that might explain their behavior in a way that assumes the good in them and recognizes our common humanity.
Notice what is lifted from you when you decide to make up a story that is generous rather than critical.
5) Close doors softly
Loud noises stimulate tension and raise stress levels by activating the brain’s amygdala, causing the release of cortisol (the stress hormone). Slammed doors carry energy, just like anything. Doors that are closed quietly and gently carry energy, too. What is the energy and emotional flavor that you either leave behind or bring into a space when a door is left to slam shut, rattling the frame and sucking out the air? This practice is fundamentally about being mindful of the energy you transfer with the most basic everyday actions. Do you want to exude more calm, peace and harmony or haste, resolve and angst? None of these are right or wrong, good or bad; rather, it’s a matter of declaring what you want to cultivate more of and acting in ways that are aligned and congruent.
Notice what’s different when you pay attention to being gentle with doors, drawers and cupboards.
6) Redistribute good fortune
Keep a bag or box in a place where you can easily place items to give to others who might love and need them more than you do. Put a bag or box in each room of your home for a period of time so that as you notice your surplus, you can share it. Find 10 things around your home or office that you no longer love, or that no longer bring you meaning, value or fulfillment and donate them.
Notice how it feels to share your wealth while you simultaneously create space.
7) Design moments of complete silence into your day
We are inundated with sound and noise day to day. Whether we listen to the radio in the car, music during our workouts, podcasts while we cook, television while we eat or the general clamor of traffic, sirens, construction, technology, machinery and chatter. It’s everywhere. If the practice of sitting in silence is new, start small. Spend 30 seconds completely alone, completely unplugged and completely quiet and allow yourself to be purified by silence. When we give ourselves the simplicity of quiet time, we give ourselves space to connect inward and to be in touch with our thoughts, emotions and the pulse of our body. Just as too much noise can cause stress and tension, research has found that silence has the opposite effect, releasing tension in the brain and body and increasing focus and creativity.
Notice what opens when you gift yourself moments of pure stillness each day.
On Feeling Dumb (and Useless) – 5 Reflections
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