Kindness to self; kindness to others; kindness to all.
No matter what religion or belief system you adhere to, kindness is always considered a core foundation on which everything else is built. The golden rule, for example, is to always treat others how you would like to be treated or putting that another way, if you want to be treated nicely and with compassion, you must treat others nicely and with compassion.
Hinduism says: "One should not behave towards others in a way that is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish nature." (Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8) The Christian Bible announces: "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5-7:27, King James Bible) In Judaism it is taught: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it." (Hillel, Talmud, Shabbath 31a) Islam says: "Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." (Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 13) Buddhism teaches: "The bodhisattva vow is the commitment to put others before oneself. It is a statement of willingness to give up one's own well-being, even one's own enlightenment, for the sake of others" (Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche) And while the Native American Code of Ethics translates it as 'respect' rather than 'kindness' the meaning is still the same: "Respect means 'To feel or show honour or esteem for someone or something; to consider the well being of, or to treat someone or something with deference or courtesy.' Showing respect is a basic law of life." (Native American Code of Ethics).
Kindness is one of the great qualities that humans are able to embody and I think it should be celebrated more than ever. Think about it this way: if you have a loved one in your life, someone who you talk to everyday, someone who you only ever want the best for, would you make mean comments to them or about them? No, if you are a nice person, you would tell them empowering and encouraging things all the time and shower them with love and kind words and compliments. Now why, if you want yourself to flourish would you be so harsh to yourself? If telling loved ones that they are worthy and lovely encourages them, why would telling yourself that you are unworthy and horrible encourage you? It doesn't make logical sense, does it? The things that we tell ourselves, how we talk to ourselves matters; shower yourself with kindness and compassion and the way you perceive yourself changes, which in turn makes you a nicer, more confident person.
“My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.” ~Dalai Lama
Kindness is the act of showing compassion and empathy towards life. Whether yourself, someone else, an animal, a plant or a situation, kindness allows you to care for something. According to a quick google search kindness is defined as: the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. Kindness is one of the most essential qualities which evolved in the human brain. Kindness enabled communities to grow and people to live together in ever larger groups. By being able to care for others, people were able to establish society and culture as we know it today. Studies have shown that when we act kind, receive kindness, or even witness acts of kindness the brain releases serotonin (the happy hormone). Your brain literally gets a buzz from kindness. Human beings are completely and utterly unable to survive without other people: even the most isolated people rely on others to bring fuel or equipment which in turn is made and processed by other people. Once we realise that all humans are dependent on all other humans, it is impossible to continue to ignore the impact of kindness on the world.
The benefits of practicing and encouraging kindness within yourself and those around you are enormous. Studies have shown that kindness can improve your health and boost your immune system. Kindness enables better mental health too - when you stop beating yourself up and start accepting yourself as you are and showing kindness to yourself, you can experience less anxiety and low mood symptoms as well as being better able to take care of yourself. Kindness encourages better community spirit and allows for unfortunate to receive the care they need.
How can we practice being kind to ourselves?
One really clever tip that I came across once is to treat yourself like you would a child - i.e. feed yourself, wash yourself, make sure you sleep enough, talk to yourself with kind words.
Start learning to notice when you have unkind thoughts about/ to yourself or others and then actively challenge them. I used to think "I'm so useless, i cant do anything," but then I changed it over time to "I am talented at a lot of things, i have anxiety which tires me out often and it is okay to rest when i need to." in doing that I was able to learn to cope better with managing my mental illness.
Another experiment you could try is to talk to yourself out loud for a whole day - saying all your thoughts out loud makes it a lot easier to notice the unhelpful and unkind thoughts and then you can challenge them. See how many unkind thoughts you have in a day and take each one as an opportunity to practice kindness. Practice rephrasing thoughts as though you are reassuring a loved one.
Kindness is contagious.
Once you start to change your self talk like this, the opposite of the serotonin-kindness process means that it becomes really painful to see and listen to other people saying unkind things about themselves and you very naturally seek to make them feel better by rephrasing whatever they have said. For example, my partner often says things like "I'm a bad person," but what I was able to show him was "You're not a bad person, you are a person who struggles with mental health issues and has Asperger’s, neither of which are bad things."
Once you start doing it with those closest to you, it has a domino effect and they pass these skills onto more people who pass it onto more people. And so, if you want to change the world, you have to start by being kind to yourself first.
Living with mental health issues, practicing kindness has allowed me to get to a place where I am able to cope reasonably well with the ups and downs of life and of mental illness. For me, showing myself kindness includes showing myself care, respect and love. It means telling myself probably 4000 times a day that "It is okay," whether that is "Its okay to feel this way," "Its okay to rest," "Its going to be okay," "You're doing okay," or "Its okay to eat/sleep/wash/move/whatever other basic self care is needed." I tell myself some variation of "its okay" all the time and by doing that I am practicing acknowledging thoughts and feelings as well as accepting that life is hard, even more so with mental illness, but being kind to myself regardless.