February is the month of love. Why not make it the month of kindness as well?
As you focus on romance and relationships, it’s the perfect time to infuse an extra dose of kindness into every interaction you have with another person.
Embark on a personal Kindness Campaign, starting now. It’s nothing official—just a commitment to yourself and to those you spend time with to be a little nicer, make yourself a little more available, complain a little less often and smile a lot more, even when nobody’s watching.
Early in the pandemic, it seemed like everyone was so nice to each other. We were all afraid and uncertain, and it made us a little more grateful than usual for our health, our jobs and our loved ones. We were all in it together.
And then, as Fall drew near and we grew weary of telework and takeout, more and more people seemed annoyed, impatient, inflexible and even rude.
While there’s never any excuse for that kind of behavior, there are endless reasons for it. Times are tough. Money’s tight. People we know are sick or have died. What will happen next—in Washington, with the pandemic, with our jobs and even with our health—are uncertain.
It’s scary. But it’s no excuse for being unkind.
Think about that and turn it around. Change starts with one person, and it might as well be you. Here are five ways to pump some intentional kindness into your relationships with everyone from strangers to spouses.
Smile with your eyes
Deliberately smile at someone and the person usually will smile back. You’ll feel good for a few seconds and so will the other person.
But smile involuntarily—because you’re genuinely happy—and the good feeling you get multiplies. Some researchers say it’s easy to tell a fake smile from a genuine one by looking at the smiler’s eyes. A fake smile involves only lips upturned at the corners. A real one also makes the eyes a bit brighter and narrower.
The next time you smile at a stranger, consider how lucky you are to be out among other people—and that’s not a stretch considering how isolated the pandemic has left us. Or think about how much your smile will brighten the other person’s day.
Think about whatever will make you happy enough to smile at that stranger with your eyes as well as your mouth. You both could wind up happier in that moment as a result.
Help a neighbor out
Feeling down because you can’t do all of the fun stuff you’re used to? Fill the gap with volunteer work.
Start a neighborhood food drive and drop off the haul at a local church or food pantry that can distribute the essentials to those who need it. Even if you aren’t able to make the deliveries yourself or work side-by-side with other volunteers because of social distancing restrictions, your kindness will make others happy.
And it will make you happy. An analysis of published research has shown that volunteers are less depressed, more satisfied with life, rate their own well-being as high and even live longer than those who don’t help others.
Find a way to share your kindness with your elderly neighbors, who will appreciate regular check-ins; unwanted animals living in pet shelters; or those in need of charity during this time of high unemployment.
You might just benefit as much as they do.
If your social life has devolved into occasional Facetime calls or texts to family and a few good friends, it’s time to step it up.
One of the kindest things you can do at a time when nearly everyone is suffering from a lack of socializing is to get creative about spending time—lots of it—with the people you love.
Just because most of your interactions will remain safely on a virtual platform doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, engage in virtual conversations and connect frequently instead of once in a blue moon.
Be the friend in your group who plans virtual movie nights, online wine tastings, Zoom game nights and celebrations from afar for every birthday, anniversary and accomplishment.
As you make your guest list, reach out to those who have become out of sight, out of mind, like an unmarried colleague or a relative who’s locked-down in a senior home. They could really use the (virtual) company.
As you while away the days, weeks and months until it’s safe to get back to normal, few actions will be kinder to others—and to yourself—than practicing gratitude.
You probably have some extra time to think lately, so think of others. Have you lost touch with one-time close friends? Do you occasionally think of a past teacher, boss or co-worker who might like to catch up with you? Did you forget to send a thank-you note to the acquaintance who recommended you for the new job you started last year?
Say “thank you” now. And then find a way to thank everyone you know.
Don’t stop with words. Feel grateful. Act grateful.
Send an email, or better yet, mail a note. Surprise someone who was kind to you with a token gift, like a gift card for a free coffee or a free download on a music app.
Let your gratitude make you kinder. And watch that kindness catch on.
Even though you’re probably not spending time commuting and you might even be working fewer hours, chances are good that your days are intense and sometimes, you feel absolutely fried.
Turn your kindness onto yourself.
Just as air travelers put their own oxygen masks on first before they help their children on with theirs, you will be more physically and emotionally capable of helping others if you take care of yourself first.
There’s nothing new here: exercise daily; sleep enough; eat healthy food; talk through your troubles with someone you trust.
And add one: Be kind to others. Not only will your acts of kindness help nurture others, but they will also make you feel better physically and mentally.
Science has proven that altruism, like exercise, releases feel-good endorphins and boosts levels of serotonin, which prompts feelings of well-being.
What a happy coincidence that being kind to others doubles as a kindness to yourself.
Dr. Cindy McGovern, known as the “First Lady of Sales,” speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication and leadership. She is the author of Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work. Dr. Cindy is the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a sales management and consulting firm. For more information, please visit, www.drcindy.com and connect with her on Twitter @1stladyofsales and on LinkedIn.