Kindness can be an overlooked character quality. Sometimes we think it’s an automatic thing, so we don’t work to develop it in ourselves or in our kids. Unfortunately, we’ve seen more than enough evidence that kindness is not always valued in our world. So how can we bring more kindness into our world? Can we make kindness become part of our culture?
Part of our culture? That sounds like a very tall order. Can we really change our culture with our own families’ values? It does sound a bit overwhelming, doesn’t it? But don’t let that discourage you from making kindness part of your family’s culture.
Kindness does not happen automatically. It really has to be a priority for you, something you are aware of, something that you work to develop and practice. We tend to be focused on ourselves, on survival and happiness, and on meeting our needs. It is, of course, important to meet your actual needs and the needs of your family. Survival is always going to be a priority, but we can both meet our needs AND choose to do so kindly. We can live freely and wisely, and still bring more kindness into our world.
What is the benefit of kindness?
According to the Mayo Clinic, kindness can benefit us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Physically, the practice of kindness increases self-esteem, gives us a higher level of empathy, and improves our moods. While these improvements are not physical, they actually cause lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. A practice of kindness lowers our stress levels, and that makes us healthier.
Mentally, kindness can change your brain! It increases the amount of dopamine and serotonin (satisfaction/well-being neurotransmitters) released in your brain. This stimulates your pleasure and reward centers, which in turn can produce more endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers).
On the emotional front, The Mayo Clinic says, “Kindness can increase your sense of connectivity with others, which can directly impact loneliness, improve low mood and enhance relationships in general.”
How wonderful that we can bring more kindness into our world and benefit from it ourselves!
How to make kindness important
If you are not in the habit of practicing kindness, it can take some focus and work to make kindness part of your life and habits. And just like any other habit, it will take baby steps to implement it.
Sometimes, inspiration can motivate us. So find a quote or two about kindness and post them where you will see them. You could put one on a bathroom mirror, over the kitchen sink, or on your car dashboard.
But the most effective way to make kindness a new priority for you is to just start doing it. Make a plan. Decide where to start. Are you most unkind to your family? That’s an easy thing for us all to fall into. So start with your family. Choose one way to be kind, and practice that until it’s not so hard anymore. Then, add a new way to be kind to your family members.
Do you find it easy to be kind to your family, but difficult to be kind to other people? Then start with one way to be kind to other people.
I used to get very upset with other drivers on the road, and I would say very unkind things to them. Sure, they couldn’t hear me, but it still wasn’t a great habit on my part. So every time I wanted to rant at another driver, I made myself say, out loud, “God loves you!” Sometimes I had to add that after I said something unkind, but I made myself say it no matter what. Often, my tone still wasn’t kind, but I made myself say it anyway. And you know what? It’s hard to stay mad at someone when you make yourself wish them well. Over time, I chilled out about other people’s bad driving. Wishing them well became a habit of mine, and now my kids say it too.
Model it for your kids
As you work on your own habits of kindness, your kids will notice. And you can help them choose one way to be kind. Then, help them along and remind them as they work on their kindness practice.
You can choose a way for your family to be kind together too. Do you know someone going through a hard time? What simple thing can you do to help them or encourage them? Or how can you show kindness to your next door neighbors or to extended family? Your kids will love being part of kindness efforts together with you, even if they are reluctant at first. Remember those neurotransmitters that will be firing away. Kindness feels good.
We can help you with this discussion on kindness
We’ve talked a lot about Rachel & The TreeSchoolers lately. In the episode A Rainy Day, the TreeSchoolers learn about the science of thunder and lightning, but they also talk about kindness toward people who are afraid. This would be a great way to start a conversation about kindness with your little ones. And you can watch this episode for free right here.
We also have a section on feelings in the My Signing Time Dictionary. Feelings are an important part of a kindness discussion, as kindness is largely about considering someone else’s feelings. We have signs for happy, sad, hot, scared, and several more feelings. You can see easy to follow video instructions for these signs in the Feelings section here.