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There is a Pre-K teacher in the school where I work who teaches her four-year-old students how to be kind. She gives them all sorts of good advice, but she also tells them something that surprised me the first time I heard it, “kindness is hard.”
Is it hard to be kind? Sometimes, yes. It can be difficult to be kind to people who've hurt us in some way, or to be nice when we're in a foul mood. And then there are those times when we have to sacrifice something for the sake of someone else, like spending money on an expensive gift, or volunteering our time to help someone in need.
But being kind isn't always so hard, especially when our compassion for other people is genuine. And the benefits are twofold. According to a study published in Clinical Psychological Science, practicing random acts of kindness can actually reduce stress and make us feel better even on our worst days.
Here are three easy ways to practice kindness that are guaranteed to brighten someone else's day, and hopefully yours, too:
1. Practice Good Manners
In my classroom, we teach my Pre-K students the importance of good manners. But having good manners is more than just saying please and thank you. It's holding the door open for the person behind you, helping to pick up the armful of groceries your neighbor has just dropped all over the sidewalk, and saying good morning to the coworkers you walk past on your way into the office.
2. Donate Money or Time to a Charitable Cause
I love doing fundraising walks, because you (and a group of friends!) can get some exercise and fresh air while raising awareness for a good cause. Back in September, I walked to raise awareness for Polycystic Kidney Disease, and this spring I'm going to walk to raise funds to find a cure for Pancreatic Cancer.
But if walking isn't your thing, there's plenty of other stuff you can try, like volunteering at your local animal shelter, or donating food and gifts to families in need during the holiday season.
3. Sharing is Caring
“Sharing is caring” is a phrase that my students use all the time. During the holiday season, I gave away an entire batch of homemade gingerbread cookies to my coworkers. Sure, it took a lot of time and energy, but it was worth it to see the look of joyful surprise on my coworkers’ faces when I offered them a cookie. But the things we share don't have to be physical, your time, skills, and friendship will do just fine.
Maybe it's hard to be kind, and maybe it's not. Regardless, when we practice kindness, we make the world a happier, brighter, and better place.