World Kindness Day | The Psychology Company
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World Kindness Day

| World Kindness Day | The Psychology Company

World Kindness Day

Would you rather be remembered as being successful or kind? The National Center for Education Statistics asserts that American children are more likely to feel like success is valued by their parents than kindness and that 80% of them also value success more highly than kindness. Whilst I am not surprised at this statistic I do find it concerning. While valuing success can be motivating and drive us to achieve our goals, we often have a very narrow definition of success, applying it to academic performance and career. Pursuing success at all costs n this realm comes with risks, not least because success comes and goes and if we base our self worth around it we will be in for a tumultuous ride. Furthermore, success often pushes us into a competitive mentality with others (wanting to be better) which can foster disconnection and isolation and for some drives unethical behaviour. Prioritising success above all else can also lead to burnout, strained relationships, lack of balance in life, dependence on external validation and mental health difficulties. I don’t think the same can be said with kindness. Research tells us that when we are kind to ourselves we are more likely to have healthier self esteem, reduced stress, greater emotional resilience, increased happiness and better mental health.  Being kind to others can enhance our wellbeing, strengthen our relationships, reduce negative emotions like anger and envy, provide a deeper sense of purpose and meaning and can alleviate loneliness.

 

So in support of world kindness day which is marked on the 13th November each year I am inviting you to reflect on whether kindness is a value of yours? Is this something you would benefit from developing or strengthening inside of yourself? If so you might like to consider a specific type of meditation practice called Loving Kindness or Metta meditation. Loving-kindness is not just a sentiment but a profound and transformative practice rooted in ancient wisdom and mindfulness. Loving-kindness  is a fundamental concept in various spiritual traditions, particularly Buddhism. At its core, it is the practice of cultivating feelings of love, compassion, and goodwill toward oneself and others. Unlike ordinary love, which often comes with attachment or conditions, loving-kindness is unconditional and boundless.

 

Loving-kindness meditation is a structured practice that helps you develop feelings of love and benevolence. Here’s a simple guide to get you started:

 

Find a Quiet Space: Begin by finding a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes if it helps you focus.

 

Start with Yourself: Begin by directing loving-kindness toward yourself. Repeat phrases like, “May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.” Say these words silently or aloud, focusing on the intention behind them.

 

Extend It to Others: Gradually, extend these wishes to others in a systematic way. Start with loved ones, then acquaintances, and eventually to people you may have conflicts with. You can also include all living beings in your practice.

 

Repeat and Deepen: Repeat this process for a set amount of time, perhaps 10-20 minutes. As you do, visualize the recipients of your loving-kindness and genuinely wish them well.

 

Maintain an Open Heart: During the practice, it’s essential to stay open to whatever arises – whether it’s feelings of warmth, resistance, or distraction. Accept your feelings without judgment and continue.

 

This practice isn’t about putting intentions out into the universe and hoping it will come true. It’s about cultivating a certain quality of heart and mind that benefits you, those around you and society at large.  While formal meditation is a powerful way to cultivate loving-kindness, you can also bring this practice into your everyday life:

 

Random Acts of Kindness: Perform small acts of kindness for strangers or loved ones, expecting nothing in return.

 

Gratitude: Cultivate gratitude for the people in your life by acknowledging their positive qualities.

 

Mindful Speech: Practice mindful and kind communication, avoiding hurtful words or gossip.

 

Self-Care: Treat yourself with the same kindness you extend to others. Prioritize self-care and self-compassion.

 

There are some misconceptions about Loving Kindness practice which I would like to dispel. Loving-kindness does not imply being overly accommodating or neglecting one’s boundaries and it doesn’t mean avoiding necessary conflict or difficult conversations. We can for example decide not to stay in a relationship with a friend or loved one and do that with a state of mind of anger and ill will or loving kindness. Loving-kindness is not about denying or suppressing negative emotions; rather, it involves acknowledging and understanding them with compassion. It is not a panacea that eliminates all challenges or hardships in life. Additionally, it is not a form of love that is limited to close relationships but extends to all beings, emphasizing universal compassion. Loving-kindness is not a mere fleeting emotion but a cultivated state of mind and a deliberate practice aimed at fostering genuine care and goodwill towards oneself and others.

 

Loving-kindness is a transformative practice. Engaging in acts of loving-kindness involves cultivating feelings of warmth and compassion towards oneself and others. This practice has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression, fostering a more positive and resilient mental state. It enhances emotional well-being by promoting feelings of connection, empathy, and gratitude, thereby improving interpersonal relationships. Moreover, the regular practice of loving-kindness has been linked to increased levels of positive emotions and a greater overall sense of life satisfaction. Beyond its individual impact, the ripple effect of kindness can contribute to a more compassionate and harmonious social environment, something I think most of us would like to see, especially in these difficult and polarized times.