creating a kindness habit-is it worth it?

Creating a Kindness Habit

The end of the school year always feels like a milestone to me even though I haven’t been in school for years.  While it may be the change in schedule (if you have kids), the warmer weather, or the fact that Fridays end earlier at work, everything seems to slow down for a few months.  It’s the perfect time for reflection and recharging.  My pursuit to create the habit of kindness began last fall at the beginning of the school year.  I think now is a good time to share how creating a kindness habit has been working out for me.

Why a Kindness Habit?

Moving back to the USA after living abroad for 24 years, I was feeling a loss of identity and direction.  After I took a year of discovery (while weathering the pandemic), I discovered that I had a real passion for Positive Psychology and, in particular, the profound effect of kindness.  I decided to try and build kindness into as many aspects of my life as possible and track the effects.

 I think that hands down, kindness is one of the greatest ways to make life worth living – for anyone.  Acts of kindness have been proven to positively impact our physical and mental health: slowing down our ageing, protecting our hearts, lowering levels of stress and anxiety, and simply making us feel happier.  It is an invaluable resource and every single person on this planet has an unlimited supply.


Creating a Kindness Habit: The Process

The goal of my pursuit is: to increase the happiness of others and myself through thoughts and acts of kindness.  In one of my cornerstone articles, I explain in detail my goal, objectives, and plan to track and evaluate progress.  Throughout the year, I reviewed and tweaked these points.  I knew if I wanted to make a habit out of this goal, it had to be meaningful and realistically fit into my life.

How am I doing?

To be honest, it’s been a process, and it’s certainly had its ups and downs.  Here are some of my big takeaways.

I learned to be kind to myself. 

I put a lot of pressure on myself to excel, and this endeavor was no different.  When I launched, I spent so much time on this, my life became lopsided.  I stopped exercising, started relying on takeout too often and didn’t prioritize friends and family.  And, if I experienced a setback in the pursuit, I would feel unreasonably disappointed and get down on myself. 

I’m much better now at being able to pause and put the challenges I face into perspective.  My goal is to create happiness with kindness, and it must start with me.

Creating new connections takes time.

One of my objectives is to create new friendships by volunteering in my community.  My move to NYC has been particularly challenging from a friendship point of view, because it’s the first time I am unable to make friends through my children’s school or an expat community. 

I took on two volunteer roles.  One worked out.  One didn’t.  The one that worked out, volunteering for my local park, has slowly but surely provided new friendships and a sense of belonging.  And, as a bonus, I’ve become an expert on the rat problems of NYC. 

Duane Park – A Cornerstone of My Community

Organizing my efforts to connect with my loved ones has been highly rewarding.

The best part of moving back to the USA has been reconnecting with family and friends.  Somehow, being in the same time zone just makes it so much easier.  I don’t have to think if I will wake someone up if I decide to call, and I can attend events like weddings and reunions.

As I outlined in the article, The Who of my Pursuit, I reviewed and organized my contacts to ensure I didn’t miss anyone and prioritize my time spent on reconnecting.  This has been invaluable.  It has brought my loved ones and me so much joy.  Albeit most of the encounters have been over the phone or on zoom, this part of the pursuit was a lifeline during the pandemic.

I’ve learned to share my passion.

Some people think that Positive Psychology and the benefits of acts of kindness are “fluffy.”  I don’t disregard their opinions, but I’ve also learned to stand up for mine.  My experiences through this pursuit have bolstered my conviction and increased my confidence in discussing the topic.  This has led to big wins.

Over dinner one night, I was describing my pursuit to a group of friends who all happened to be physicians at Mount Sinai.  One of them was very interested because she is involved with a Positive Psychology based program designed to support her residents.  A few emails were sent and next thing I knew, I was volunteering as Program Coordinator for PEERS, a curriculum developed to increase resiliency and combat burnout in physicians.  I am working with an incredible group of professionals learning more every day about my passion and how it impacts people.

Kindness improves lives.

The most rewarding aspect of this pursuit has been feedback from others.  I have spent hundreds of hours reading research about the positive physical, mental, and emotional benefits acts of kindness provide to both the giver and the receiver, which you can get a great summary of here.  Research is compelling but life experience is the most convincing.

Your stories of how kindness has impacted your lives have been the greatest gift.  They keep me going.  They make our lives happier. 

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