Throw Kindness and Compassion like they're Confetti: Day 20 of 40 DAYS OF GROWTH
From Friday 19th January, everyday for 40 days, I will be sharing something each day that has either (1) changed my way of thinking or perspective, (2) helped me get through a challenging period of transition, change or growth, or (3) changed my life for the better. I've called it '40 Days of Growth'. I'd love it if you followed along with me on this journey - contributing what has also helped you to learn, grow and change. And, if I can support you on your own learning journey, please do let me know 😃
Throw Kindness and Compassion like they're Confetti
Day 20 of 40 DAYS OF GROWTH
I read the words "throw kindness like confetti" on a job description a while ago and felt a resounding 'YES, that's so right!' inside of me! What a fun way of putting 'be nice to people'. Being nice to people = feeling good within ourselves. Even our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, talks about 'bringing kindness back'! So, this blog post is about that - how CAN we have and show more kindness and compassion for people when, well, they're not being that kind or compassionate to us?
Day 20 of 40 DAYS OF GROWTH brings you a few tools that have helped me have greater levels of patience, compassion and empathy for challenging people, even when I've had highly stressful times. If you find these tools useful I'd love to hear from you! :)
Contemplate this - your partner was late to date night, or a driver cut you off in traffic, or you have to work late when you'd rather be seeing friends. You feel frustrated, some anger, perhaps some disappointment. If you are holding a grudge or bad feelings against another person who do these feelings hurt? Do they hurt you (the one holding those feelings) or the person that you're holding those feelings against? If you guessed yourself you're right.
Have you ever felt so sad, angry or hurt by someone that the next morning you woke up and felt absolutely sick? There's a reason for it - holding stress and strong emotions in the body without releasing them makes the body sick!! Ugh. Oh, how I've hurt my body in the past 😔 Thankfully, with regular practice over the last few years and by increasing my self-awareness levels I've been able to notice how my mind and body reacts in these situations and empower myself to make different reactions.
Part of this is developing a greater level of self-awareness: how do you react when someone pisses you off? When someone 'hurts you'? Or, the classic example: when someone cuts you off in traffic?
Which brings me to...
Healthier ways of reacting to challenging people and situations
Above I gave examples of situations or people hurting us - the classic example is when someone cuts us off in traffic. Does it feel good to get angry and hold a grudge against that driver, that you may never see again, for the rest of the drive home or to work? What if you were to carry that anger with you into your day and into your meetings and interactions with other people?
There's a reason why people swear by exercise, talking with a friend, journalling and doing mindfulness practices. They're examples of healthy ways to work through, accept and release emotions when we encounter challenging people and situations. These different practices take us away from the situation, give us a chance to PAUSE and REFLECT, perhaps see it from a different perspective and then come back with a more empowered response - such as having patience, empathy or compassion for the other person.
reminderS to bring perspective to situations...
Some days when I'm feeling really stressed, or frustrated with a person I've encountered or a meeting I've had (I'm certainly not perfect!) it takes me catching myself, taking a deep breath and remembering that EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN SHIT GOING ON. This is something my first manager taught me to help me out of my perfectionist and comparing-tendencies. When I would feel really anxious in my first job about my colleagues doing work better than me and faster (they did, after all, have at least 10 years + more work experience than me), she would remind me that, often, underneath perfect exteriors that everyone has their own shit/problems going on and that EVERYONE STARTS FROM SOMEWHERE. It allowed me to get out of my head, get some perspective of my situation and have compassion for myself and others. Maybe it will help you too.
COMPASSION, KINDNESS AND EMPATHY: An Exercise
This is an exercise that I get participants in my mindfulness classes to do in our last session. It's called a COMPASSION MEDITATION. Before you blanche at the word 'meditation', hear me out! It's a non-spiritual exercise that can be done solo or in pairs, looking into each other's eyes. It's a super powerful exercise and designed to help bring a greater sense of understanding and compassion for other people.
I invite you to find a quiet place for a few minutes, put on some peaceful music if that's your jam and, either closing your eyes and bringing to mind someone who you're having difficulties with, or looking into the eyes of a loved one. Have someone read the following out to you:
This person has a body and mind... just like me.
This person has feelings, emotions and thoughts... just like me.
This person has in his or her life, experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering... just like me.
This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering... just like me.
This person wishes to be healthy and happy... just like me.
This person wishes to be loved... just like me.
Now, notice: how do you feel after you've done the compassion meditation? Has how you view the other person changed? It's powerful to either note down what you've noticed or to contact the person and express in compassionate and kind words your observations.
It's a pretty powerful exercise.
This type kind of practice is called a 'mindfulness practice'. Noticing and observing our thoughts, bodily sensations and how we interact with others are all mindful behaviours and can take practice to improve. With mindfulness we become more compassionate and this increases our happiness which ripples out and affects others. How beautiful is that?!
So, my friends: go out and THROW KINDNESS & COMPASSION LIKE CONFETTI! :)