The holidays are approaching, and as gifts are being purchased, as the wrapping paper is wrapping, we want to talk about the gift that gives back and the gift that keeps on giving: kindness. Holidays are a time to meditate on the good in our lives, the blessings, the people, and the best way to express that gratitude is by trying to be kind to each other and ourselves.
A gift of kindness encourages others to act kindly, to be brave in their affections and their compassion. It’s hard to see the full effects of even the smallest act of kindness, how the spirit seems to leap from one person to the next like dominoes, how it can fill a room, and how it can warm a heart. And it doesn’t stop there; when we act kindly to others, we also do a kindness for ourselves. Studies have shown that acting with kindness can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and it can decrease stress, aches, and pains, and can even lower blood pressure. For a gift that costs so little to give, its effects on one’s own life and others cannot be overstated.
Below find more of our thoughts on how to focus on kindness this holiday season.
Be of service
Many charitable organizations depend upon donations during the holidays and even more so on volunteers to help further their mission, and one of those volunteers could be you! You can find volunteering opportunities near you through your local charities and community centers, or through organizations like Volunteermatch, that help connect people with causes that matter to them. Some people may find meaning volunteering at soup kitchens or animal rescue centers. Others may find meaning as a mentor for younger kids, working with organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America. Assisted Living Facilities also rely on the kindness of volunteers to keep their residents engaged in a good company. Whatever your passions and inclinations, there is a volunteering opportunity to match, and there is no better way to remind yourself of how valuable you are than by helping someone else in need.
And if helping others isn’t already enough of a goal all in itself, science has shown that volunteering presents the volunteer with real health benefits. In one study, after accounting for lifestyle factors and other variables, people aged 55 and over who volunteer for at least two different organizations have a 44% lesser likelihood of dying early! So try spending time this year helping others, and improve your wellbeing at the same time. You may even make some friends while you’re at it.
Be kind in the little things
An act of kindness has no requirement of scope to it. Even the smallest kindness can make all the difference in someone else’s life. Desmond Tutu, the South African Theologian, and anti-apartheid activist once said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Kindness doesn’t need to be a spectacular display. So much of kindness is the little things, a kind word, a thoughtful gesture, holding the elevator, an invitation to the holiday party. Kindness is more than a job you do, but a way to approach your daily life.
Check in on the people you care about
While the old song may tell us the holiday season is the hap-happiest season of all, they can be challenging for a lot of people. In difficult and lonely times, or following a loss of a loved one, the holidays can be a reminder of that loss and that loneliness, and the pressure to feel hap-happy can make it all that much more difficult. It’s a perfect time to check in on the people you care about, especially older relatives who may be living alone, or friends and family you know have been struggling through a rough patch. So give them a call, find a time to get a coffee or lunch or catch a movie. One of the best ways to celebrate the people we care about is to spend time with them and make sure they’re doing OK.
Focus on Gratitude
Studies have shown that gratitude can increase a person’s empathy. And what are the holidays about after all if not celebrating everything you’re thankful for? This year, try to make your gratitude an active endeavor by keeping a gratitude journal, in which you can express to yourself just how much you have to be grateful for. Another way to practice gratitude actively is by communicating it to others. Give an old friend a call. Write your grandpa a letter. Make your mom dinner. Tis the season for telling the people we love just how important they are to us.
Be kind to yourself
Kindness is also a gift we give ourselves. Be kind to your body by eating well (which we know is more difficult this time of year), keeping a regular sleep schedule, and getting regular exercise. You can’t be much help to others if your tank is running on empty. So make sure you’re giving yourself what you need to recharge. Take up a new hobby, or a holiday project. Ask friends out for lunch or ask them for support. Take time to focus on what you need to be well.