The Seven Day Kindness Crusade and the 3 Simple Steps to feel Happier, more Connected and Confident.
It’s 12 July 2021. In the UK we wake to grey skies and feeling like it’s the morning after the night before. We hear the news about the abuse our England men’s football team have been subjected to after just missing out in the Euro finals and our hearts drop.
Knowing there are racists among us and people who have these thoughts triggers low-level anxiety and sadness in me.
In addition to the Monday morning sadness, we are just a week from lockdown rules lifting in England and it seems everyone has a different view on this, ranging from anxiety and apprehension to excitement.
This feels like the perfect moment in time to focus on kindness, a Seven Day Kindness Crusade.
In Rutger Bregman’s brilliant book Humankind, he shows how believing in human kindness and altruism can change how we think and act as a foundation for achieving true change in our society.
Being kind, among its many benefits, lowers anxiety levels. Studies show how being kind is known to release the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin, like serotonin, is a happy love hormone which elevates our mood and provides that warm fuzzy feeling experienced when we feel good.
Oxytocin has many benefits for our physical and mental health. It helps us to relax and calms our fears and anxieties.
Being kind, therefore, is beneficial to the giver but the added bonus is the receiver of kindness also gets a huge release of oxytocin which elevates their mood. We are literally giving a boost of health and happiness every time we are kind to someone.
But it is more than just the release of the happy hormones which help elevate the mood.
Being consciously kind and appreciating kindness also creates a break for the brain, much like meditation. When we stop to notice and focus on good, it clears our mind and provides a pause from every other thought, worry or task competing for space in our minds.
Over 100 people signed up for the kindness crusade – it felt exciting and the timing was perfect. It would be accurate to say that most people saying ‘I am in’ for a kindness crusade are already very kind people – that’s why it’s important to them. So, what would the results of a focus for seven days on intentional kindness be?
The set-up was simple:
- Start each day by watching a two-minute video with a suggestion of a kind act and set an intention to be kind.
- Complete the quest if it was possible that day.
- Reflect at the end of each day on the kindnesses given and received, and report back to the other people taking part in the crusade if possible.
The daily quests varied. In the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman we learn that everyone has a primary and preferred way of being appreciated:
- Acts of Service – it’s kind if you do something for me
- Quality Time – it’s kind if you spend time with me
- Receiving Gifts – it’s kind if you give me a gift or token
- Words of Affirmation – it’s kind if you tell me what you feel
- Physical Touch – it’s kind if you give me a hug
We could literally be thinking we were being kind every day to someone by telling them how much we appreciate them but if their love language is such that they appreciate people doing things for them, our kindness could go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Starting each day thinking about how we would be kind that day was beautiful. It rewired our minds and had us looking ahead to the day, considering moments which could offer the opportunity to be kind.
An added benefit as we pondered on being kind was thinking back over our own lives and acts of kindness we had received to inspire us for our quests.
Reflecting at the close of each day has been highlighted as one of the most powerful elements of the crusade. Making space each evening to notice the many acts of kindness shown to us, plus where we had been kind, created such a feeling of joy, confidence and security about the wonderful world we live in and the amazing people we are surrounded by.
Participants in the challenge reported back on how connected they felt, the enormous gratitude they felt, how much lighter they felt and, in some cases, an elevated sense of joy.
I mentioned that the participants were already kind people – what the reflection enabled them to do was notice this. If you do something naturally, it is the last thing you give yourself credit for because you don’t even notice you do it. It was wonderful for me to see them realise this.
Some of the simpler quests, such as sharing with people why they are appreciated, had an immediate and visible impact on the receiver. A text for no reason saying ‘I appreciate you’ can change things for someone in a second and, beautifully, these acts of kindness often lead to a reciprocal appreciation, a moment of closeness, connecting people and deepening relationships.
The hardest quest was the suggestion to carry out a random act of kindness for a stranger.
I was in my office on that day except for one fleeting visit to have some paint mixed at the local paint shop. All morning I’d been thinking about what I could do that day as a random act of a kindness for a stranger and had really decided that I may have to leave this one for another day.
When I left the house, I was on high kindness alert, watching out for opportunities to be kind. I pulled in to let a car past (thankfully they waved and said ‘thank you’, as when someone doesn’t acknowledge you, that’s when the stress hormones appear) but that’s not really that random.
While I was waiting for my paint to be mixed, a lady at the counter was explaining that she was a teacher and the head had told her that morning that next term she would be in a different room, which she had visited and found it scruffy and dirty. It needed painting and tidying, but the head had said that wouldn’t be happening unless she wanted to do it herself – she was upset and frustrated.
I turned and spoke to her, and she shared the same information with me, adding how disrespected and undervalued she felt. I told her that I had the utmost respect for her and value immensely the work that all teachers do, and asked her if I could contribute to the cost of the paint. The lady got very teary and I spent time listening. She said how kind that was, thanked me and began talking about the kindness in the world and how kind people can be. She had arrived at the paint shop hot, frustrated and feeling like nobody cared and left talking about how kind people are.
Although I do always try to be kind, if I hadn’t had kindness on my mind that day, I don’t think I would have done that. I would probably have had my head full of other thoughts and perhaps not even noticed the situation, never mind done anything.
The crusade was amazing for bringing kindness into our conscious awareness.
Over the seven days we did create a ripple of kindness. We had people paying for the next person’s coffee, someone secretly paying for a young couple’s dinner after overhearing them say what a treat this was for their birthdays, dogs being rescued, money raised for charity. Conversations were had that might have been put off until a later date, compliments were given, love was shown, a rhubarb crumble was even cooked for a neighbour (I was the lucky receiver of this kindness!).
A lovely story came from Rowena, a former Olympian, who had been gifted a test drive in a Ferrari and could take a friend. Rowena knew so many people who would love it but instead thought about who needed it right now. She had seen a post about a lady who had qualified for the Olympics this year but now couldn’t go and was devastated so Rowena offered the place to her.
Many of the acts of kindness were anonymous and others were discussed and shared.
Talking about kindness spreads kindness. Sarah, who paid for the next person’s coffee in an independent coffee shop, told the barista all about the kindness crusade and he said it made his day. How many days do you think he made that day by passing on that kindness?
Having kindness on your mind definitely makes you kinder, as you see opportunities to be kind which you wouldn’t usually spot.
You don’t need to know the result – you can just trust that your kindness has been noted and the recipient will highly likely pay it forward.
Acts of kindness don’t need to be grand gestures like paying for a stranger’s dinner – a smile, a compliment or a message of appreciation can all make someone’s day. The smallest gestures are often the ones that people notice and feel the most.
David R Hamilton, author of The Five Side Effects of Kindness, states the R rate of kindness is over 5, so for every act of kindness given the recipient will be kind to at least five others, who are kind to five others, and suddenly kindness is the most contagious thing we have on the planet.
Three simple steps to kindness
So, for anyone wanting to create a ripple of kindness, feel happier, more connected and confident, and pass that feeling on to others, these are the three simple steps to take each day.
- At the start of each day set an intention to be kind – you can think about who and how, or just keep an eye out for an opportunity to complete a random act of kindness.
- Be kind – appreciate someone each day, listen, send a gift, write a note, give a hug, give someone your time.
- Reflect on the kindnesses at the end of each day, those you have received and those you have shown. The gratitude for people flows during the reflection and brings the feelings of joy, appreciation and confidence in society. The warm feeling that comes from oxytocin flowing through the veins is real, the energy and love around the heart is real.