The most effective technique

Kindness is a trait we start to learn early. Drew visits the animals on my friend Judy's farm, near Dayton, Ohio, 1987.

Kindness is a trait we start to learn early.
Drew visits the animals on my friend Judy’s farm, near Dayton, Ohio, 1987.

“People often ask me what is the most effective technique for transforming their life. It is a little embarrassing that after years and years of research and experimentation, I have to say that the best answer is–just be a little kinder.” Aldous Huxley

I thought quite awhile about Huxley’s conclusion, and I think it has a lot of merit.  I can think of hardly any world problem — war, disease, hunger, crime — that would not lessen significantly if kindness grew and became more widespread.  And on a smaller scale, much day-to-day misery is alleviated in countless situations by people who show kindness in big or little ways.

But on a more personal level, as I consider my own life, I know that thinking, feeling and being kinder is a solution to many of the little irritations that sour my moods and put a grouchy expression on my face.  When I’m feeling patient with other people, my day just seems to go better.  When I’m angry or frustrated with others, even for good reasons, it’s my own day, mood and life that suffer most.  And I’m a hotheaded person who needs this lesson more than almost anyone I know.

Sometimes, the simplest things can be the hardest.  Kindness is a trait that comes naturally to many of us at least some of the time, but there is never enough of it to go around.  Yet it’s fairly easy to find ways to be kind if we are willing to make the effort, and as with so many actions, one kindness often leads to another.

Next time you’re having a really bad day, try this: take a few deep breaths, remind yourself that you will most likely survive whatever minor disasters you’re coping with, and resolve to use kindness as a strategy to lighten your mood and make an immediate improvement to your attitude.  Then practice — even if it feels stiff and unnatural at first — smiling at people, opening doors for strangers, complimenting cute babies or dogs you see, letting someone who is obviously in a hurry go ahead of you in the checkout line at Walmart.  Even if you can’t muster any affection for strangers, FAKE it.  I bet it will brighten your day, even if only by allowing you a private inner laugh at your own awkward efforts.

Have you ever made a conscious effort to be more kind?  If so, how did it make you feel?  Do you agree with Huxley that kindness is an effective means of transformation?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

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