We live in an overstimulated society, where busy schedules lead to lack of connection, where many people go through life barely looking one another in the eye, where connection is summarized by scrolling down a Facebook newsfeed and clicking "Like" to show we care, and where vulnerability and self-expression continue to be repressed for fear of rejection.
Kindness has fallen outside of the norm, too.
About a year ago, I witnessed a friend help push a man in a wheelchair for five blocks in the pouring rain. Her random act of kindness opened my eyes to authentic compassion, love, and trust with a perfect stranger. To look beyond our biases, assumptions, fears, and ourselves is to truly embrace community as a whole, triumphantly transitioning from the "I" to the "we."
Struck by this incident, I stepped into my community with an intention to complete seven selfless acts of kindness in seven days. The laws of the day, outlined by Deepak Chopra in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, guided my week of kindness. Monday’s Law of Giving and Receiving is especially influential, as it invites you to be an active participant in the flow of energy in the universe, to cultivate compassion, and to turn separation into unity.
It’s important to note that although this week of kindness is focused on selfless acts, being kind to yourself is always important. Before sharing kindness with others, learn to recognize what kindness feels like by gifting love, patience, compassion, and acceptance to your own body, mind, soul, and spirit.
Here’s a seven-day plan for you to create your own seven acts of kindness in seven days. I included the things I did during my “kindness challenge” to help you understand how to put kindness into action.
Day 1: Show Your Appreciation to Someone in Your Life
Whether you thank someone for his or her assistance, a job well done, or for being a positive influence in your life, take a moment to show gratitude today. You can intentionally bring this into your daily routine by taking the time to say thank you, to show gratitude before each meal, or by praising someone for his or her service. A simple, "I appreciate you," can make a big difference in someone's life.
What I Did: I left a Post-it note and a candle on my coworker’s desk for going above and beyond to help me finish a project on a deadline.
Day 2: Show Gratitude to a Stranger
This is similar to day one, but involves extending appreciation to someone you don’t know. When you show your gratitude to those who you consider to be strangers, you realize that, truly, we are all interconnected and more familiar than you ever imagined. Simple actions of kindness can go beyond the divisions created by language or appearance. This can be someone who went above and beyond in terms of customer service, helped you with a flat tire, or gave you a coupon. Express gratitude with a warm thank you.
What I Did: I wrote an email to the supervisor of an employee at a local grocery store who provided me with exceptional customer service.
Day 3: Give a Helping Hand
Volunteering, shoveling snow for a friend, helping someone move, or even helping out with household chores are great ways to take the load out of someone’s shoulders. Sign up to volunteer for an event in your town or anticipate situations in which you can help others.
What I Did: I volunteered at a child development center in my town. This opportunity allowed me to connect to my inner child, support teachers and students, and give back to our education system.
Day 4: Listen
Truly listen. Pay attention to what people say when you ask, “How are you doing?” This can actually be quite challenging and yet, it can be a catalyst for deeper connection. You might feel that you want to share a solution or add your opinion. Practice taking a moment to pause, breathe, and direct your full attention to what is being said without interrupting the flow of words. Those receiving this act of kindness will feel fully supported by the sacred space that you have created for them to share.
What I Did: I listened to employees, friends, and family with the ears of my heart.
Day 5: Honor Nature
Honor and acknowledge the Earth for all that it gives to you. On this day, consider riding your bike instead of driving your car, plant flowers in your garden, pack your groceries in recyclable bags, or pick up garbage that you see on the floor. Every bit counts when you put into perspective that this is our home, which we will pass down from one generation to the next.
What I Did: I picked up garbage on a hiking trail, finishing up with a meditation session to connect to the environment as part of my extended body.
Day 6: Make Time to Connect
As your days fill up with commitments, work, or extracurricular activities, it's easy to lose touch with loved ones. Be intentional about reaching out to a family member or friend who you haven’t seen in a while—schedule a date to reconnect or pick up the phone and call.
What I Did: Thanks to technology, I was able to start a gratitude thread via text message with friends and family living on the East and West Coasts, allowing us stay in touch even when we are far away from one another.
Day 7: Pay it Forward
By combining something that you're passionate about with a desire to help humanity, you can spread kindness in the world. Some ways you can pay it forward include: paying the tab for someone you don’t know at a coffee shop, gas station, or grocery store; writing a recommendation letter; letting another driver get in front of you while waiting for the red light; donating money or time to a cause you believe in; giving someone a caring smile and/or a hug to show them you care.
What I Did: My passion for leadership training, and my desire to make a difference in my homeland of Peru, led me to volunteer my time writing leadership curriculum to support the education of young Andean women in Peru.
Selfless acts are positive to your health. When you do something nice for yourself and/or for others, your heart is activated. It's now your turn to create positive ripples in the world through your seven random acts of kindness.
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