Human beings are made to connect with each other, so naturally, helping others makes us happy. You’ve felt this when the person in front of you in the drive-thru has paid for your meal. You’ve felt it when you have held the door open for someone. Both the person helping and the person being helped felt better. The world could use a little more kindness, but we don’t always know how to help others.
Kindness to Yourself
You may, like me, stumble into the false belief that you should drop your own needs to meet others’ needs. I even thought, at one point, that I could only be happy if I completely forgot myself and focused on other people. For months, I threw everything I had at helping other people, and yet I didn’t feel fulfilled. I felt like I was always running out of breath. I got physically sick–often. Finally, I burned out. I realized that I had forgotten the most important part of helping others: helping myself.
Practicing being kind to yourself will prepare you to help other people. You’re with yourself all the time, so you have plenty of opportunity for this. For me, it looks like making time for meditation or reframing negative thoughts. Even while you’re reading this, you can probably come up with a few ways to change. When your cup is full, you can healthily share with those around you.
Everyday Acts of Kindness
Some people travel the world to serve small struggling communities. It’s inspiring to see what they do. At the same time, it’s disheartening for some of us from the outside looking in. We might think, Well, I should be doing that. Why aren’t I saving up for a trip? You may feel like your efforts to help other people aren’t enough. The truth is that everyone can be kind differently. Everyone can serve differently. What someone else accomplishes doesn’t diminish what you accomplish.
Maybe you want to take a plane to a distant country to help others, but all you need to do is walk across the street and spend time with your neighbor. For some reason, we value sweeping, exotic acts of service more than small, everyday ones, when in reality, both make life brighter for someone else. You can help others where you are right now.
Help Your Family and Friends
If you’re focused on being out there saving the world, you may miss the opportunities to serve that are right in front of you. Some of the most impactful help you give will be to those you spend the most time with. Helping your family and friends will strengthen the relationships that you already have. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
- Call your grandparents to ask about their day.
- Invite a friend over for dinner.
- Pray for family members and friends.
- Tell a friend something you love about them.
- Choose to respond with kindness when your sibling hurts your feelings.
- Send a text letting a friend know you’re thinking of them.
- Bring soup to a sick family member.
- Tell your parents you appreciate them.
People generally respond well when you take an interest in their lives. As you reach out where you are, you will find that opportunities to be kind are closer than you think.
There’s something special about the feeling shared between people who help each other. It feels bigger than us, like there’s no room to hold it in two hands. Helping others makes you happy in a bursting way that’s difficult to explain. As a result, your overall well-being solidifies. Spiritually, you feel connected to yourself, others, and the divine. You see the worth of individuals in a different light than you did before, and so you want to continue uplifting other people.
Look around and create a space to be kind.