World Kindness Day, which happened on Nov. 13, was particularly needed this year. Founded in 1998, it is a day created to recognize human beings’ propensity for kindness and to call for the spreading of kindness amongst each other.
This year, we have faced many challenges. A year that started with the promise of a new decade quickly descended into the spiral of a global pandemic, political uprisings due to police brutality and a contentious election fueled by division and the spread of misinformation.
All are feeling the effects of this difficult year, and this has manifested in the rising of mental health crises and diagnosis. Now, more than ever, is it important to be kind not only to others, but to oneself.
An important step in cultivating a positive life for oneself is the creation and application of boundaries. Sometimes, people’s compassion and good nature leads others to take advantage of them. It is necessary for people to set healthy boundaries in order to foster positive self-growth.
Boundaries can help individuals demand respect from other people. The benefits of setting boundaries are endless. In instituting boundaries, an individual is deciding what they will and will not accept for their lives. This can help prevent a person from being put in an uncomfortable, unwarranted or even unsafe situation. Having their boundaries respected will in turn allow the person and their acquaintances to develop a healthy relationship where all parties can feel respected. It is an act of kindness to respect boundaries that have been set.
Another important act of kindness is to be an active listener. An important aspect of relationships is to listen to each other and believe each other’s testimonies and challenges.
When we listen attentively, we are showing the speaker respect. This allows us to provide positive feedback and offer useful advice, as well as making the speaker feel important and respected. Practicing active listening skills strengthens a person’s critical thinking skills and encourages a healthy two-way relationship. It also cultivates empathy and understanding.
This year in particular, it is important for everyone to be gentle with themselves. Living through a global pandemic is not easy or something that many of us have done in our lifetime. Being a college student is difficult in general, but with the added stress that this year brought, it can feel like an uphill battle.
Many teachers have been practicing kindness and understanding, allowing students leeway and a cushion for classwork. Some students are not performing as well as they would like, and we have to remember that we are all doing the best we can under these difficult circumstances. That being said, school is not the only area where we may be facing difficulties.
Many people are less active than usual and some are eating to cope with the stress and anxiety we are facing. Some people have noticed physical and mental changes to their person. It is completely understandable to have developed some changes, whether that be they gain weight, experience hair loss or any other symptoms of anxiety, depression, or stress.
When we look in the mirror, we should try not to pick apart our new appearances or criticize ourselves. A suggestion is to give oneself positive affirmations instead. Our bodies are our homes. They ward off disease, our legs carry us to new places, our arms can wrap around the people we love. Treating our bodies with gentleness will help us improve our relationships with ourselves.
Everyone faces insecurity, and it’s important to note that. If we stopped comparing ourselves to others, we will see that we are worthy of love, kindness and respect. Some people look at themselves in the mirror and repeat positive affirmations to themselves for a positivity boost. Try this, and even if you don’t believe them yet, repeating them will make them a habit and can lift self-esteem.
A good place to start is to refrain from criticizing oneself and trying to eliminate negative thoughts. By extension, it is important not to critique the bodies of others. Many times, a comment can be well-meaning, but an unwarranted comment about a person’s physical appearance can cause more harm than good. There are infinite reasons why someone might have a physical change. Weight fluctuations due to stress or the arrival of acne due to hormonal changes are both outward changes that are a normal part of the human condition. Comments that draw attention to them can be triggering, especially if one is going through something traumatic.
A tangible way of spreading kindness through the world is by donating money, time and resources to important causes. Community clothes closets accept donations of hand-me-downs to provide to people in need. Many communities also offer food drives or pantries and accept donations of non-perishable goods as well as volunteers to distribute supplies. There are also mutual-aid organizations that seek to provide resources directly to individuals in need.
Many of these organizations amplify the need of people who are vulnerable and face the threat of violence. If one does not have the resources to donate time or money, sharing posts and information to social media is always a positive and free thing to do. November is also Native American Heritage Month, and it’s important to recognize that many Native communities are currently struggling, including the Indigenous communities of Central America who have been hit by Hurricane Eta.
Allen Salway, a Navajo community organizer – whose username is @lilnativeboy on Instagram – provides a list of organizations and ways to donate to different Indigenous causes. Kindness is also sharing resources to vulnerable people.
There are an infinite amount of ways to be kind: one can use words, smiles, lending a hand, an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on – just to name a few. Connectedness is important during this time where we’re socially distant from each other and reaching out to someone who is struggling can be the ultimate act of kindness. That looks different for everyone, but whether it’s sending a text, a meme, or a phone call, it can truly make someone’s day.
When it feels like the world is falling apart, sometimes the only thing we have control over is how we treat other people. When all feels lost, choose to spread kindness, to yourself, and to others.