We have all heard the phrase ‘be kind’. It saturates social media, street art and conversations between friends and family- but what does it really mean? How can we truly ‘be kind’? For me this phrase is inherently subjective, and to achieve kindness one day can look entirely different to kindness the next, and it differs from person to person too. Within this post I would love to guide you to some small, effective ways that we can spread kindness, infect others with a smile and spread love.

For yourself:

I wholeheartedly believe that kindness to the self is imperative within life. In a world rooted in judgement, hate, and competition to be the ‘best’, we must strive to give ourselves a break from beauty standards on social media or becoming a mansion owner by 21 and love ourselves for being US! We are all perfect in our own ways, and I believe being kind, forgiving and patient to ourselves in life is crucial to happiness.

So here is a few things which will boost your kindness to YOU…

Take time for self-care; whether this is a facemask and takeaway night, going to the gym or enjoying a hobby, self-care is a must. Enjoy the mindfulness of joyous small moments like the smell of the early morning, your toast being the perfect golden brown or your favourite song coming on the radio. In addition, try to take a break from your phone screen (especially just before bed to help you get a deeper nights kip) and use the ‘app timer’ function on your smartphone to monitor and limit the time spent on social media apps… sometimes time slips away when we are engrossed in TikTok or browsing holiday photos on Facebook! Try to get outside, breathe in fresh air, go for a walk or a run around and enjoy the beautiful planet we have been blessed with… Kindness to your body is crucial too! Drink water, between three and four pints of water a day is the minimum our bodies need. Sleep- the recommended amount of sleep for the average adult is between 6 and 9 hours per night, so aim for this to allow your body time to reset, heal and prepare you for the next day! In addition to water, feeding your body with good food is important too- aim to get your five-a-day in, as well as eating foods high in dopamine (such as oily fish, nuts, seeds and dark chocolate) as these are a great way to keep your brain and body happy. Finally, one of the best forms of kindness to the self is dance! Having a boogie round your kitchen or bedroom, listening to your favourite music, and letting your body move releases serotonin and pumps us with energy- bonus points if you take your carefree dancing outside and soak up the summer sunrays simultaneously!

Image of a beach showing the sea, sand and sky.  A person in the background is about to surf and another is doing a handstand on the sand.

For friends and family:

Despite my hatred for chocolate/crisp companies writing ‘share bag’ on their snacks (as I know full well that I will be eating all of those buttons myself)- sharing a meal, a snack or just having a cup of tea with a friend/family member can be such a good tonic. Now that restrictions are easing, nipping for a coffee or even sitting in someone’s garden for a glass of something chilled can leave everyone feeling refreshed and beaming after spending time in good company. Although this may not seem an explicit act of kindness, sharing good company can turn someone’s hump-day into one looked fondly back on. Making memories and capturing them through your camera lens is heart warming and gives the opportunities to be kind to ourselves, and to have a laugh and enjoy good things with others also. I try to snap a couple of pictures too- nothing better than being able to look back and smile at days filled with positivity and happiness.

Some loved ones live further afield though- in this case I have the perfect way to put a smile on their face too… Our letterboxes are often filled with bank statements, bills, and flyers day-in day-out, send a card or letter to someone, just a short note to tell them that they are appreciated. This is something which undoubtedly puts a spring in my step! If you don’t want to write this on pen and paper, a simple text message or post on social media to express your appreciation of your loved ones is a small (but effective) way to be kind too…

A personal letter with 3 pink roses on top.

For strangers:

Kindness is not just limited to ourselves and those we love, although me looking after me and mine and you looking after you and yours is important, there are easy and effective ways to show kindness to others too. Whether this be making someone locally smile or helping a social cause across the other side of the globe, small acts of kindness go a long way…

Firstly, signing a petition is a quick and easy way to support social causes that you are personally passionate about, whether it be to reduce plastic waste in the ocean, helping achieving equal pay for all at work, or increasing government funding to support struggling communities- your signature projects kindness. Small donations via JustGiving pages or buying something from your local charity shop also spread kindness to strangers in need.

If charity shop-chic isn’t really your thing, you could be kind and make someone’s day by paying for the coffee of the person behind you when you are at Starbucks next, leave a small tip for staff next time you eat out or even just thank the bus driver on your way to work. Also, sharing positive messages through social media spreads kindness too- the media can often be quite negative and cause many people worry, so break this up on your timeline by sharing a positive affirmation or quote for your friends and followers to see.

A coffee cup.

I hope that this post has given you one or two ideas for ways you can be kind to yourself and be kind to others also. Remember, kindness comes from the heart and more often than not it is free! Treat yourself with the same amount of kindness that you would show others, and don’t forget that smiling is infectious… one mere smile from you could make the whole world smile!

Eleanor Rowell (Student Intern) – Social Sciences

Eleanor Rowell