Do you ever think you’re too busy for compassion or kindness? Juggling work, family life, and other obligations might mean that acts of kindness fall by the wayside. Who has time to feed the homeless or purchase coffee for the person behind you when you can barely find time to buy your own groceries?
Since compassion is my line of work, I often have the privilege of discussing it with people in my life. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about compassion and kindness. During our discussion, I recognized a recurring theme that has come up over the years. People tend to make two assumptions about compassion and kindness.
- Compassion and kindness are something people do for other people. Compassion and kindness can extend beyond human-to-human interactions. In fact, it’s wise to consider the planet and its many species during your day-to-day decisions. You cannot deny that compassion for the planet also benefits all of those who live on Earth. Compassion for the planet not only helps you save species on the brink of extinction, but it can also help your fellow humans survive and thrive.
- Compassion and kindness take a lot of effort. That’s not necessarily true. You don’t have to volunteer at your favorite nonprofit each week in order to practice compassion and spread kindness. You don’t even have to do much out of your day-to-day routine. By making small acts of kindness every day, you can make an impact.
Here are some simple, easy random acts of kindness that truly matter.
1. BYOM (Bring Your Own Mug)
Do you swing by a coffee shop as a part of your morning routine? If so, do you bring your own mug? If you look around, you may be disappointed at the number of non-recyclable paper cups, plastic lids, and cup sleeves you see.
Think about how many coffee shops are on the planet and how much waste they’re creating because of these single-use cups, lids, and sleeves.
Now, consider what might happen if you brought your own to-go mugs or ask for the coffee in a mug. How might that impact the amount of waste you’re sending to the landfill?
Bringing your own mug is an easy way to start your day with kindness. And, who knows? Perhaps you’ll inspire those behind you in line to start doing the same.
2. Stop Purchasing Plastic Water Bottles
There is no need to buy a plastic bottle of water.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy report, “The best research currently available estimates that there are over 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean today. In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).”
Curb your contribution to the plastics pile by carrying your own water bottle. Similar to bringing your own coffee mug, it’s one of many simple acts of kindness you can start now.
3. Offer the Benefit of the Doubt
It’s easy to jump to conclusions, isn’t it? When someone mishandles a situation or acts unskillfully, what thoughts immediately come to mind?
For example, what happens when a friend shows up 20 minutes late for plans you’ve made and didn’t text you to let you know? Perhaps you might immediately think that your friend is inconsiderate for not reaching out.
Consider other scenarios that might happen. How do you react when you text your partner about dinner plans and you don’t hear back? What crosses your mind when you get cut off in traffic?
In any of these situations, you might label people as inconsiderate jerks. What if, instead, you offered them the benefit of the doubt by thinking, “My friend must be tied up at work or school,” or, “My partner must not have seen my text,” or, “That driver must not have seen me.”
By starting from that point, you can keep your own headspace and reaction even-keeled.
4. Give Someone Your Full Attention
Consider this quote by French philosopher and activist Simone Weil: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”
How true is that!
Simone Weil lived in the early 1900s and labeled attention as “rare.” It couldn’t have been that rare during those days! Compare the 1900s to this age of cell phones and constant distractions, when it’s not often that you’re connecting with someone without being pulled away by a vibrating or dinging phone.
Offering someone your undivided attention is about as simple as you can get—yet it’s a lost art. Try keeping your phone at home or in the car when you meet with your friend. Or if a colleague stops to talk at work, move away from your computer screen and be fully present.
5. Wear Secondhand Clothes
Purchasing your clothes from a thrift store or having a clothing swap with your friends is kind to the planet and it’s kind to your wallet.
Most people go to a store (in person or online), purchase an item, and wear it. If you found something that looks good and fits—and is a great deal—you buy it and don’t think twice.
But many clothing items are made with toxic chemicals, and you may not think about who makes your clothes and how those people are treated.
Kestrel Jenkins McGill, the host of the Conscious Chatter podcast, says, “Eighty percent of garment workers around the world are women, who often face gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace, according to a report by the Clean Clothes Campaign.”
Have you ever thought about what happens to your clothes when you’re done wearing them? According to a McKinsey & Company 2016 report, “nearly three-fifths of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within years of being made.”
Why not give thrift stores a try or donate your old clothes?
6. Say “Hi” to Someone New
One of my acquaintances is not a big fan of San Diego, the town in which we live. He’s from the Southeast and doesn’t think people in Southern California are friendly. I could not disagree more.
How is this possible? I think it’s because I’m not afraid to make eye contact, say “Hi,” and create brief connections with random people throughout my day. My friendliness creates the friendliness I receive.
The San Diego hater, however, isn’t as comfortable connecting with people he doesn’t know. Since he’s not giving off a friendly vibe, he’s not receiving it in return.
It can be awkward for many people to make eye contact and say “Hi” to strangers but it’s one of many kind acts that could make someone’s day. View it as a personal experiment and be curious about what happens when you do.
7. Be Inclusive
I’m 42 years old and have been the target of some “mean girl” actions within the past year or so.
I’ve been a part of a group of a dozen women since I moved to San Diego 17 years ago. Back in the day, we gathered weekly to watch “The Bachelor” or “Sex and the City.” Our times together have become less frequent thanks to raising children and moving to different parts of town.
Recently, one of these women began hosting parties and inviting everyone in the group except for three of us. I was caught off guard when I found out, and I was hurt that I wasn’t included. Many of my friends, including my sister-in-law, asked if I would be there and it felt painful each time I told someone that I hadn’t been invited.
Sometimes you don’t connect with everyone. Whether it’s someone at the office or a friend of a friend, you aren’t going to be “besties” with every single person.
Consider what it feels like to be left out, and think about inviting that person who may seem on the fringe. It might mean a heck of a lot to that person and will most likely make you feel great.
8. Have a Kind Commute
Picture being in a long line of stopped or slow-moving traffic. As you wait patiently for lanes to merge, someone zooms past on the right side and wants to cut over.
What’s your first thought? You might think, “What a jerk!” or something worse. You may feel anger bubbling up from within, and you may honk or gesture to let that person know that they cannot get away with such behavior.
These things happen when you’re driving, right? If you drive, you might get cut off on the freeway. Someone may go when it’s not their turn at a four-way stop. A car might be over the line in their parking spot, making it impossible for someone else to park in the spot next to them.
What if your practice of good deeds and kindness can extend to how you react on the road? You cannot do anything to change how that person drives. Instead of getting angry, revisit giving someone the benefit of the doubt. You could think, “That person must be in a hurry,” instead of laying on the horn.
9. Give Yourself a Break
Kindness should include you, too. Remember that you’re human and make mistakes like everyone else. You’re going to say the wrong thing, miss a deadline, cut someone off in traffic by accident, and you might even forget your coffee mug when you get your next to-go latte.
Of course, you should learn from your mistakes, but don’t allow them to take up more time and energy than necessary. Instead of berating yourself, offer yourself the same supportive words you would offer your friend and maintain your own happiness.
There’s no need to complicate small acts of kindness. By doing these simple, mindful daily acts of kindness, you’re helping to make the world better each and every day.