15 ways to make kindness the norm in your life

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If you hop onto any one of the social media platforms today – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – you’ll probably notice something, especially in the comments section…hate and negativity seem to be the new norm. 

It feels like we’ve all forgotten how to be kind and positive! 

At the risk of sounding like an ancient person, I’m just gonna go ahead and ask – where did our kindness go? And how do we get it back? How do we make kindness the norm in our lives? 

In this article, I’m going to share 15 ways we can try and make kindness the main theme of our lives. Hopefully, this list can get you thinking about the ways you treat other people and see how you can do better. 

Let’s dive in!

1) Be kind to yourself

Why am I starting out with something that sounds so selfish? That sounds so contradictory, right? 

Well, it’s because of this simple truth – hurt people hurt people. 

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I want you to really think about it. When someone lashes out, it’s easy to dismiss them or get mad right back. 

But I believe that much of today’s unkindness stems from the fact that we aren’t looking inwards and addressing our own hurts. 

Instead, we defend ourselves from pain by detaching from or getting aggressive toward others. 

That’s no way to live. You really can’t pour from an empty cup. 

So, start practicing self-compassion. If you know how to talk to yourself kindly, that voice will naturally extend to the way you talk to others! 

2) Practice gratitude

You know what else just naturally radiates? A grateful spirit

When you choose to focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have, you’ll be walking around with a feeling of fullness. Like you have so much that you can’t help but spill it over and brighten someone else’s day. 

The world needs more of that positive energy, don’t you think?

Whenever I come across someone who’s like that, I can’t help but feel uplifted. I begin thinking about what’s good about life, too, instead of focusing on my problems. 

I guess it’s true what they say, energy is contagious! Let’s choose to put positive energy out there, then! 

3) Smile more

A smile is another thing that’s just irrepressibly infectious. 

Think about this – when someone smiles at you, what’s your immediate reaction? It’s to smile back, right? 

We’re hardwired to do that. Seeing people smile stimulates our neurons and triggers us to smile, too. In short, smiling is contagious! 

Even better, this simple act produces endorphins, those happy-making chemicals! You’ll feel good, and you’ll make others feel good!

When you’re out and about, try to make eye contact with those around you and offer a friendly smile. You never know who might need a bit of kindness in their day.

4) Compliment others

And if you really want to brighten someone’s day, pay them a compliment!

“Your haircut looks great!”

“I loved your speech!”

“I feel so blessed to have you as a friend.”

Imagine being told things like that. Doesn’t it feel good? Someone could be having a really bad day that you completely turned around with a single compliment! 

Best of all, it costs nothing! Why not get into this habit and start making people happy?

5) Listen more

Here’s another thing that people really need – someone to listen. 

And I mean, really listen. Without the intent of replying or inserting your opinion. 

Mindful listening requires us to put the spotlight on other people. And that’s just a lovely act of kindness. 

When we really pay attention to what they’re saying, we open the door to meaningful connection. Just by giving others this gift, we can make them feel seen and heard, and that’s priceless!  

6) Practice empathy

Empathy is something that comes naturally when you know how to listen. 

See, it’s easy to jump to conclusions and make the wrong assumptions about a person. But if you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a minute, you won’t fall into that trap. 

If you think you’re lacking in the empathy department, here are some ways to develop it: 

  • Practice active listening
  • Practice self-reflection
  • Read fiction (yes, read!)
  • Imagine yourself in the other person’s situation
  • Pay attention to body language
  • Seek out diverse media

7) Be inclusive

Why did I put “seek out diverse media” on the list above? Because many of us tend to be kind only to what’s familiar to us. 

But there’s a whole world and so many different kinds of people out there! And if we don’t take the time to know about diversity, we’ll feel afraid and less inclined to be kind. 

That’s natural – human beings are wired to fear the unknown

But you know what? So many people feel lonely and isolated because they feel like they don’t fit into the world. Factors like disability, racism, and illness come into play. 

That’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? No one should feel isolated because other people don’t get them. 

So, we’ve got to fight the unknown by educating ourselves. That way, we can be inclusive and make everyone feel welcome, no matter how different they are from us. 

8) Practice mindfulness

I think that mindfulness is such a useful habit to have all around, but especially in terms of developing kindness. 

I can’t count the number of times I’ve put my foot in my mouth and ended up hurting someone. Those happened because I wasn’t mindful. 

Once I started taking a beat and thinking before I speak, I was able to respond more kindly. Even if I had to give some unpleasant feedback, I could couch them in a more compassionate tone so that the other person doesn’t feel bad. 

If you often find yourself feeling irritated and itching to lash out, don’t. Take a deep breath, pay attention to your thoughts, and think of ways you could say them more kindly. 

9) Be intentional 

Mindfulness also trains you in this one other habit – being intentional. 

I can’t tell you how this one helped me be kinder. Once I began each day with a definite, positive intention to practice kindness, it really put everything in laser focus. 

See, framing kind actions as intentions puts them on your to-do list. They don’t stay as something you just do when you feel like it or when the occasion arises. 

No, you set out with that mindset of doing good for someone else, and you’ll get it done, I promise! 

10) Be patient 

What’s the natural effect of being empathetic, mindful, and intentional? You become more patient! 

If you understand that everyone is struggling with something, you’ll feel more expansive toward them. You can give them the space they need to overcome their challenges. 

This leads me to my next point…

11) Choose to think the best of people

That server who messed up your order? She’s not stupid; she could just be new to the job and feeling overwhelmed.

That assistant who took forever to send you a file? He’s not lazy; he could be going through a divorce. 

Do you see my point here? When people mess up, our instinct is to jump to a negative assumption. But as I mentioned earlier, they could just be struggling with something. 

Kindness means making a decision to think the best of people. 

12) Be forgiving

And when they do mess up, as we all do, choose to forgive. 

Forgiveness is such a buzzword in mental wellness practices, but it’s really not something that comes naturally to us. 

Of course, it’s hard to forgive, I totally get that. But the beauty of it is that it’s two-pronged. 

When you forgive someone who’s hurt you, you’re being kind to them – and to yourself. 

It’s terrible to walk around with anger and pain; why slow yourself down with such a heavy burden? 

13) Offer a helping hand

Think of a time when you needed help, and you didn’t get it. I’m sure it felt awful, right?

I’m a firm believer in being “the change we wish to see,” as Mahatma Gandhi said. So if you see someone needing help, go ahead and step in. 

I remember a time when I was struggling to carry a heavy package up the stairs. A neighbor was out for a walk, and he offered to help. We didn’t know each other, but we ended up chatting for a few minutes, and I left feeling like I had made a new friend.

14) Volunteer your time

To take that concept of helping even further, how about volunteering for a cause you believe in?

The world has so many problems – many community organizations need help, but they don’t have the budget to hire the people they need. 

That’s where volunteers come in. Just by sharing your time and effort with those in need, you can make a huge difference! 

And it doesn’t just benefit them – it benefits you, too, because volunteering connects you to people and gives you a sense of purpose

What was that Mr. Rogers said about helping? “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Kind people truly make the world seem like a less harsh place!

15) Set a good example

Lastly, here’s a surefire way to make kindness the norm in your life…be a role model. 

I can attest to this. When I had kids, they really forced me to do better. I had to really watch my behavior and be kind to others. I knew my children were watching, and I had to model kindness for them if I wanted them to grow up to be good people. 

Even if you don’t have kids, remember this – someone’s always watching. I don’t mean that in a creepy way, but you know what I mean. 

When someone sees you being kind, they learn from you, even if they’re not aware of it. You have the power to inspire people, so make sure you’re using it to the fullest! 

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