We all want to be happy. Often in our pursuit of happiness we purchase shiny things, visit new places, and change how we look, but the truth of the matter is these small bursts of heightened excitement are not sustainable long-term. In this era of technological distraction and instant satisfaction, we tend to let one simple, human necessity slip away: conscious kindness.
Conscious kindness is the act of looking for opportunities to be kind to others and yourself. Often, acts of kindness are performed when the opportunity presents itself: holding the door open for someone or returning a dropped item to the person walking ahead of us. We call these “random acts of kindness”, and they are just that—random. There is no pattern, meaning or planned mindfulness to the act. Conscious kindness pushes you out of your comfort zone, sending you into the world to deliberately add moments of kindness to someone’s day.
Conscious kindness might look like buying a coffee for the person behind you in line. Conscious kindness might look like asking the person beside you on the bus how their day was. Conscious kindness might look like setting yourself a standard of handing out 10 honest, selfless compliments before the day is done. It’s about thinking where in your day can you go out of your way to give kindness to others.
A recent study set out to investigate the effects of a seven-day kindness activity intervention on changes in subjective happiness. It was found that “performing acts of kindness for seven days boosted [the participants’] happiness and well being” more than that of the control group who performed no acts of kindness. It’s no surprise that “a positive correlation can be drawn between the number of kind acts and an increase in happiness.” (Lee Rowland & Oliver Scott Curry, The Journal of Social Psychology)
Becoming more consciously kind begins when you are open to changing the lens through which you see the world. To do this, you must begin with yourself. Being kind to yourself first and foremost is where this light will be born; the light that comes from you can then be shared and spread to those around you. Speak gently to yourself. You become what you think about. Floundering in and dwelling on negative thoughts will only serve to keep your energy low. Practice catching your judgmental thoughts when they creep in and replacing them with kind thoughts toward yourself.
Then move to giving conscious kindness to those around you. Realize that behind every face you see on the street is a story you will never fully know. Understand that, overall, people are good and just want to live a happy life of their own design. Practice being the person that leads with kindness and you will be amazed at those who follow and the lives you will quietly impact. This is where sustainable, human happiness begins and grows.