Tennis Star Madison Keys Explains How Kindness Can Improve Your Well-being

“Look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself how awesome you are.”

Kindness and giving back to others in need are both tremendously helpful at improving our well-being. But with busy lives and at a turbulent time, kindness isn’t always the first thing on our minds.  

Tennis player Madison Keys, though,  is on a mission to spread kindness. Over the years, Keys dealt with bullying and online abuse. After dealing with the stress and challenges of her own experience, she set out to help others by joining the organization Fearlessly Girl Up. Now, Keys is launching Kindness Wins, a nonprofit that will serve as a collaborative engine for kindness in times of struggle. 

“I wanted to start something more inclusive that was open to all genders and ages,” Keys tells Thrive.  “Hopefully, we can let even more people struggling know they’re not alone, and teach even more people the importance of being kind.”

Keys, two-time U.S. Olympic medalist/alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, and U.S. Olympic medalist/Nordic skier Jessie Diggins will team up with Kindness Wins to launch the “KINDNESS IN CRISIS” relief initiative, which will benefit families and communities impacted by COVID-19. They will participate in an online auction with Kindness Wins via Charity Auction Today.

Kindness Wins will feature a virtual fundraising auction for athletes to activate to support relief needs in their communities. The KINDNESS IN CRISIS effort matches athletes who want to help with those who need relief and support from the challenges and impact of COVID-19. Relief organizations benefiting from the KINDNESS IN CRISIS fundraising include The American Red Cross, Feeding America, No Kid Hungry, and the United Way.

Keys talks to Thrive about how to incorporate kindness into our days, and how she stays focused and motivated. 

Thrive Global: How can we be kinder to ourselves?

Madison Keys: Kindness definitely starts from within. Self-care gets talked about a lot these days, and I think it means being more aware of how we think about ourselves, how we talk to ourselves, and how we take care of ourselves — not beating yourself up if something goes wrong. Or maybe it means to spend more time doing things you enjoy or really celebrating even the small things you accomplished. Look in the mirror and tell yourself how awesome you are. We’re all different, and no one is perfect, and we’re all great in our own ways. 

TG: What are some simple ways we can be kinder to others?

MK: I think a smile goes a long way, especially to strangers. Saying please and thank you are easy ways to be kind. Just noticing the people around you are just like you, dealing with their own things each day, and you may not know what those things are, so even small acts of kindness can make a difference to them. You never know.

TG: What is your morning routine? How do you set your day up for success?

MK: Coffee! My day doesn’t start without it. I typically wake up, make coffee, go on my phone while I eat breakfast, and then wash up and get ready for practice, the gym, or whatever is on my schedule. 

TG: Does it differ when you aren’t training?

MK: I train almost every day. On my days off I might sleep in a little more, but there’s still always coffee when I wake up!

TG: Working in a competitive sport, how do you mentally prepare and avoid getting overwhelmed?

MK: I think playing for so long and being in different match situations in the past have helped me get to a place where I can handle big moments and not get too overwhelmed. It’s important to have a good team of people around me who help me prepare and keep me focused.

TG: As a professional athlete, it requires a lot of drive to train and compete. What are some of the ways you motivate yourself to keep at your goal?

MK: I definitely want to achieve certain things in my career, so having those things in my mind keeps me motivated to practice hard and keep improving. 

TG: Can you share a time that you lost your motivation — and what you did to bring yourself back?

MK: If I’m being completely honest, I lose my motivation maybe once every two weeks. Working out six days a week is exhausting and can be a lot. But I remind myself of what I want to achieve, and that this hard work I’m doing each day is what helps.

TG: How do you focus? Are there some small tips or tricks you use to maintain your focus?

MK: My focus is challenged a lot during a match. There’s just so much going on around you — different noises — it’s way different from practice, which is usually very quiet. I remind myself to focus on the other player, the ball, and what I’m doing, and tune everything else out.  

TG: Many Olympians and professional athletes have spoken about sleep and performance. How does sleep impact your game? 

MK: Sleep is really important to help your body recover from all of the effort it put in during the day. So physically, it’s probably as important as something like hydrating. Mentally, especially with all of the travel we do and the jet lag, I need to make sure I’m getting enough sleep to keep my focus. I wouldn’t say I require a specific amount each night, but I definitely know when I need more and I try to allow time for that.

TG: As an athlete, you’re probably more hydrated than most people. Do you ever get sick of water? 

MK: I’m usually mixing in an electrolyte powder that has a flavor to it, so that makes it a little better. I also recently got a carbonated water machine at home and can mix in flavors, so that makes hydrating a little more fun too.

TG: What’s your go-to healthy snack when you’re traveling?

MK: All natural peanut butter.

TG: We hear a lot about athletes’ physical conditioning, but what do you do for your mental conditioning? 

MK: I don’t meditate, but sometimes at tournaments there’s a “quiet room,” and I’ll sit in there to get a little space from the noise before matches.

TG: What were some of the best tips for healthy nutrition your trainers have given you?

MK: Prepare snacks in advance at home. Since I’m burning so many calories in practice or the gym, I need to make sure I’m putting enough back in my body. If I have these ready-to-go snacks, it’s easier for me to remember. 

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?

MK: When I’m overwhelmed, I write everything down I need to get done. Then I prioritize that list and figure out how I’m going to accomplish it. 

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