4 tips to embrace kindness

Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate to those around you, but embracing kindness can also be good for you.

Being kind to others can make you feel great. And it’s simple: when you connect with others through kindness, a hormone (a substance in your body that acts a bit like a messenger) called oxytocin is released. It travels round your body and makes you, and the person you’ve helped, feel good.

Day-to-day it’s easy to see acts of kindness happening around you. And you can easily practise this type of kindness yourself. You could help someone less able with a heavy bag, or smile to the commuter you pass every morning while power-walking (head-down) to the station. But, kindness doesn’t just come in a physical form. It can be practised within as well. In particular, loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is a type of Buddhist practice that’s all about ‘thinking kind’ to help increase your positive emotions.

LKM helps to develop parts of your brain that are involved in keeping your emotions in balance. It’s essentially a type of training for your brain. In LKM, you train your brain and alter its activity to help you adopt positive feelings and generate compassionate and empathetic emotions towards yourself and others.

Want to try it out? Here’s how:

Be kind to yourself

Being kind to yourself is often the hardest part, but it’s really important to help remove any negative emotions you may have. These emotions may otherwise hinder how well you will be able to generate loving-kindness towards others.

  • First, you should start to become aware of yourself. Focus on positive emotions like peace and then move on to more empowering emotions like confidence.
  • Secondly, in your mind, repeat to yourself: ‘may I be happy and well’ or something similar. Doing this can help you to feel loving-kindness for yourself. You could also imagine positive images around yourself, like a light mist surrounding you, to help with this step.    

Think kindly about a friend

The next step is to transfer loving-kindness to someone who you are already fond of. This could be a friend or family member. You might find this step a bit easier. It’s often easier to feel positively about someone you like, or are particularly close to.  

Try using the methods above to transfer loving-kindness to your target. Instead of wishing yourself well, repeat in your mind: ‘may they be happy and well’. Similarly, instead of imagining a light mist around yourself, imagine a light misty path that spreads between you and your target, along which your loving-kindness can travel.

friends holding hands

Spread kind thoughts to someone you know

For this step pick someone you feel neither positive nor negative emotions towards. This could be someone you regularly pass in the street or in the corridor at work. Use the methods outlined above to help you transfer loving-kindness towards them.

Include someone you dislike in your kind thoughts

This stage can be challenging. It may feel unnatural to project kind thoughts to someone you dislike. To help with this stage, try not to focus on any negative feelings you may have. The key is to think positively of them. It may help you to wish them happiness in your mind like you have in the previous steps.    

If you can, try to stay with each step until you can feel loving-kindness appearing. Allow yourself a few moments to observe the loving-kindness you have generated and then gradually move on to the next step. Continue this process until you have completed all of the steps.

If you don’t think you’ll have time to fit in LKM, try practising as you travel to or from work, or when you’re preparing dinner and see how you get on.

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