RADICAL KINDNESS: The meaning and how everyone can embrace it

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“Sure that’s mad, Ted!” as Dougal might say to Father Ted. 

Radical kindness! Imagine a society where kindness was core.

Kindness is the key to recognising others and ourselves, as worthy of love and understanding. Musician and mental health advocate Niall Breslin aka Bressie, often talk about how Irish society could be transformed if we adopted radical kindness as usual behaviour.  

Like gratitude, we need to practice kindness. With practice, we learn to see with our hearts and act from a place of compassion. As the Dalai Lama says, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” By practicing radical kindness –toward ourselves, with loved ones and to the world at large – we can transform ourselves, our community and our world for the better.

This is the opposite to the selfish rush of society which has become disconnected and distracted. How often do you stop when shopping to talk or are you and others always in too much of a rush? ‘Hi’ and ‘goodbye’ is the norm.    

What is kindness?
Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. Affection, gentleness, warmth, concern and care are words that are associated with kindness. In our self-obsessed competitive world, kindness is associated with naiveté or weakness. That is not the case: being kind often requires courage and strength in the face of mistrust or ridicule. Kindness is a skill of emotional intelligence.

You’ve heard about survival of the fittest, the often misunderstood mechanism Darwin came up with to explain how evolution works. When it is applied to human society, survival of the fittest is usually associated with selfishness: to survive and thrive means to look out for yourself. But Darwin didn’t see humanity as being biologically competitive and self-interested. He believed that we are a profoundly social and caring species, arguing that sympathy and caring for others is instinctual.

A lot of research supports this idea. It has shown that devoting resources to others, rather than having more and more for yourself, brings about long-term well-being. Kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in marriage. 

Kindness is love in action.
Here are seven ways to bring more kindness to everyday life. Give them a go. Notice what happens to your thoughts, feelings and relationships as you do.

1. A moment of ‘kindfulness’
Be aware of the present moment with heart. Craft a personal ritual to start your day with kindness.  

2. A daily kindness challenge 
Commit to doing one kind thing for another person that is outside your usual routine but is absolutely achievable, for example, sending a thank you note. Ask What small gesture of kindness can I do today?

3. Look at things from multiple perspectives
In social situations, try to “walk in someone else’s shoes.” What if I don’t take this situation so personally? What if I wait a day to respond? What if the kindest thing to do is to excuse myself from the situation or relationship? Ask How can I bring kindness to this difficult moment?

4. Give yourself a daily dose of self-kindness
Directing kindness outwards helps to quiet the inner critic. Directing kindness inward is an act of compassion. Find or create a series of phrases that you find comforting. Be clear, be authentic and true to your experience, and use a kind tone e.g.”I will be ok.”, “I love myself just as I am.”, “I trust in myself.”Ask: What vulnerable aspects of my experience need my tender love and care?

5. Stretch 
Fear holds us back and is supported and strengthened by avoidance. Ask the question: “How can I be courageous and step out of my comfort zone?”

6. Volunteer
In a culture where people are stuck to mobile devices, are addicted to the modern affliction of busyness, and are chronically stressed, it may feel impossible to make the time to volunteer. Ask yourself Where will I be happy to volunteer? 

7. Be grateful
Kindness and gratitude go hand-in-hand. Through gratitude, you can nurture a kind mind. You can nurture positivity through repetitive experiences of appreciation. Ask yourself, How can I become more aware, more curious, more grateful?

When you treat yourself and others with warmth, empathy and respect, your world begins to change.