While it’s OK for acts of kindness to be completely random, even better if they’re planned, persistent, and consistent. Remember what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to train your brain to be happier, and that can be helped with a good strategy.
Understand how kindness works in the brain, what acts and even just thoughts of kindness are doing to the brain, what they’re triggering, and how you can trigger them. If you understand how kindness works in the brain, you can exercise more control over it.
Stop being unkind. One of the easiest ways to be kind is to just stop being unkind. Any time you find yourself having unkind thoughts, about yourself or about other people, or you’re thinking about doing unkind things, or even saying unkind things, just pause. That pause isn’t just being kind to others, it can calm your brain too.
Be kind to yourself. It’s tough to be kind to others if you’re not kind to yourself. So much of our anger and sadness, disappointment, our fear, our stress, comes from how we handle things around us, process all the incoming garbage, and how we think about ourselves. You need to develop a strategy where you’re kinder to yourself, not being so hard on yourself, not constantly focusing on the negative and ignoring the positive.
Recognize that kindness is a strength. Have the courage to understand, believe, even be willing to tell others, that kindness is a strength and an advantage and not a weakness. Neuroscience says that kind people usually finish first, not last. Remember, there’s decades of research to show that the happier you are, the more successful you will be. And an equal amount of research that tells us that the best way to be happy is to be, yes, you guessed it, kind.
If all you are in the world is kind, then you are the best at everything. You can’t want to be a better person than that. And people will notice, and they will love you for it.
Ask yourself, are you kind? Be honest. Push aside all the distractions for moment. Any frustration, fear, stress, doubt, anger, anything else around you that’s getting in the way of clear thinking. And have a nice chat with yourself. Are you genuinely a kind person? Do you want the best for others and not just yourself? Because that’s the fair trade. If you’re kind to others, it will come back to you.
And even if you’re struggling to be kind, you feel that you’re not quite genuine yet, keep at it. Practice makes perfect and kindness is no exception.
Don’t be kind alone. It’s just like volunteering. The more you do it with others, the better it feels, the more courage you’ll have to keep doing it, the more support you’ll get, and the more rewards you’ll get.
Try volunteering. Speaking of volunteering, neuroscience also suggests that one of the best ways to trigger kindness and happiness is to volunteer. The act of volunteering, of helping others, helping to make their life just a tiny bit better, and even just thinking and talking about volunteering, triggers the good hormones in dozens of different ways.
Make kindness a daily thing. Get into the habit of, for example, saying three kind things or doing three kind things or having three kind thoughts every single day. It might surprise you, but that single act again triggers changes in your brain that will make you happier.
Choose your kindness carefully. Find out what makes you want to do kind things. List all the things that you could do to be kind to others. And we have a list on our website. Then pick the ones that you like most, that you’re more comfortable with. There’s nothing selfish about being strategic in your kindness. If you like doing certain kind things that make you happier, you’ll do them more often, and more people will benefit. And that’s always the kindest thing to do.
Be slow to judge. So much unkindness comes from judging too quickly, others and ourselves. If we slow down before we make a negative judgment about someone or some situation, something they say or do for example, and instead we think for a moment what’s going on in their lives, and their minds, that makes them feel and behave that way. That can trigger more sympathy and empathy, which is not just kind to them, but great for you too.
It’s OK to be a little selfish. Don’t feel uncomfortable or ashamed or even manipulative thinking of kindness as a life strategy. There’s nothing wrong with you being kind constantly, even if it’s because you feel it’s going to help you have a better, happier, more successful life, if others are benefiting from that strategy too.
Think small. It’s the little things that often count. Your acts of kindness don’t have to be massive of life changing. Just doing simple things, even thinking simple thoughts, being kind in simple ways, can all trigger the brain in the same way. And you get the same amount of happy reward each time you do it.
Encourage others to follow. Kindness can become addictive. Not just that others will follow your lead, but that your brain loves the feeling it gets from doing kind things and it will motivate you to keep doing it because it simply wants more of that feeling.
Ask questions and listen closely. One of the kindest things you can do is to ask others what’s going on in their lives, how they’re feeling, if they’re struggling with anything, and listening to what they have to say. It’s not just kind to them, knowing that someone cares enough to spend some time inquiring about their feelings, but it’s also great for you because of the satisfaction that you’ll get from it. And it also broadens your mind because it’s a very easy way to find out about other lives in the world that you may have no experience of.
Explore the incredible potential of mindfulness and breathing. They’re great for calming you down, centering yourself, getting stress out of your body, and putting you in a much better frame of mind to be kind to yourself and to others. And remember, just like the act of kindness, mindfulness and breathing are changing your brain as you do them. The more you do them, the more permanent the brain change.
Practice gratitude. Again, being grateful, identifying and even stating or writing down all the reasons you have to be grateful, is very kind to yourself and helps make you much kinder to others. The more you appreciate what you have, the more sympathy you’ll have for others who don’t have the same. And you’d be surprised how much you have that you should be grateful for