Is kindness really that important?
What do you think is the most desirable personality trait we look for in a partner?
Surprisingly, it’s not a great sense of humour, good looks or being able to cook a delicious curry!
It is, in fact, kindness.
Kindness, in yogi terms, is known as ahimsa and is, arguably, the most important concept of yoga.
Ahimsa means to live in kindness doing no harm to any living thing – including oneself.
The great yogi and philosopher Patanjali said:
‘In the presence of one firmly established in non-violence, all hostilities cease’.
Well, it’s easy to see how a yogi meditating in cave far away from the rest of the world and eating a strict vegan diet can live by ahimsa.
But what about the rest of us?
Is it possible to be kind in the frenzied, fast-paced world that we live in today?
And, is kindness really as important as it seems?
Let’s find out.
The effect of kindness on others
Like me, I’m sure you consider yourself to be a kind and compassionate person.
But if we stop to think about it, how often do we find ourselves harbouring unkind thoughts or words aimed at our family, friends or complete strangers?
The answer is simple.
We don’t feel good about ourselves and we take it out on others. We might not even realise this is happening until we look back with a new-found sense of clarity.
It happens to me more than I care to admit!
Like when I’ve had an exhausting day and I just want to put on my pyjamas, pour a glass of wine and relax on the sofa.
Instead, the minute I walk through the door (or sometimes before!), I start complaining that my husband hasn’t done some menial task like putting the bins out. In the process, I manage to pass my crappy mood onto him!
Great job, Paula.
Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often anymore and when it does, I try to notice it before it reels out of control and ruins our night!
Next time you find yourself thinking or saying something unkind, ask yourself how your own mood is affecting your actions.
If you were having a great day would you react in the same way?
The one person you must be kind to
Do you treat your mind and body with kindness?
Most of us don’t.
Even though I know what it means to look after my mental and physical health, I still behave in ways that are less than kind to myself.
On the yoga mat, for example, I sometimes push a little bit too far into a pose before immediately regretting it.
The result? A slight pull of a hamstring or an annoying twinge in my shoulder that takes days to go away.
To make matters worse, I’ll tell myself how stupid I am and that I should know better than to let my ego take control.
This is a prime example of how not to practise ahimsa!
This type of unkind action releases cortisol in the body. While a little of this fight or flight hormone is good for us, too much has a detrimental effect on the way we feel.
By comparison, positive thoughts and calming activities, such as meditation or going for a walk in nature, release dopamine – the feel good and immune system boosting hormone.
And tell me, who doesn’t need a bit more ‘feel good’ running through their system right now?!
Build a kind world by starting with you!
As the great author Henry James once said:
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
So, maybe instead of going for a run when you’re already exhausted, or feeling like a failure when you don’t tick off everything on your to-do list, try to tune into what your mind and body actually need.
They will thank you for it later – and so will everyone else.
Because when we are kind and gentle to ourselves, we can be kind and gentle towards other people.
You have the ability to choose the words and actions that make a difference to others and yourself.
Remember, kindness is contagious.
Let’s spread some today!
In this article, we’ve only scratched the surface of the positive effects of kindness. I would love to hear your experiences and ideas in the comments below.
PS Get in touch if you have a great idea for a blog post – I’d love to hear from you!
- Healthy New Year’s Resolutions – the yoga way!
- Tapas: Turn Resolutions into Action
- Yoga Giveaway!
- Judgement: The Thief of Joy
- Crisis Survival Guide for your Well-Being