Practicing Daily Acts of Kindness (DAKtivism)

The need for kindness

Kindness  is central to health and happiness, and those practicing daily acts of kindness (DAKtivists)  gain many benefits: 

  • more fulfilling lives and relationships; 
  • relief from stress, anxiety and low mood; 
  • deep feelings of self-worth; 
  • greater life satisfaction, happiness and purpose in life; 
  • better health and even 
  • increased longevity. 

Becoming more compassionate and kind

Self- or other criticism is the opposite of compassion and kindness,  This occurs when we accidentally allow an inner critical voice relative freedom to judge, undermine, condemn or even sabotage our efforts and activities. When this happens, moods often drop, stress or anxiety increases, and a lot of energy gets wasted. ​Typically however, this happens because people simply had not realised the negative consequences, or that there are better and more effective ways to manage ongoing negative, angry, anxious or worrisome thoughts.

*A lot of acts can be carried out under the guise of compassion or kindness, but true compassion or kindness does NOT harm another.   

Being kind to ourselves means taking time to treat ourselves with respect, compassion and care. Kindness and compassion means being sensitive to suffering of the self, and of others, and it includes a deep commitment to prevent/manage that suffering and nurture well-being (Gilbert, 2015). 

As an example, if a colleague gets a promotion and you did not, it would be easy to self-criticise and tell yourself “you should have done better”, or “you messed that up”. By taking a self-compassionate and kinder stance however, you might say instead: “your time will come”, or “you are feeling annoyed / angry, and need to do some self-care (a kind and compassionate activity) to improve how you are feeling".  Kindness and self-compassion, which includes self-care, are especially important at difficult times, but ideally, kindness and self-compassion also become a way of life.  A daily  way of life!​

Steps towards self-compassion and kindness

Steps towards kindness and self-care, and a new you, can include any of the following: 

  • Minimising or ideally dropping activities that do not help long-term, incl rumination or thinking about things that annoy; moaning / complaining / venting; efforts to change friends or adult family members;
  • Scheduling in “me time”:  such slots could be before 8am, lunchtime and/or early evenings - and no work /technology distractions are permitted. This time could be spent in meditation, exercise (incl cycling or walking); pampering (incl spa-type treatments at home); outdoor walking (ideally with wow glasses on!), or generally being creative (e.g. writing / playing music). 
  • ating healthily, and regularly (usually around every 4-5 hours), which includes eating 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables, and making  sure you are not dehydrated. Ideal breakfasts might be those that are oats-based or protein based.  
  • Going walking: walking or other exercise releases endorphins and lowers levels of cortisol which means that we feel better and get more energy. Exercise sounds too difficult or taxing? Choose an activity that would be most enjoyable or fun, e.g. many people prefer  walking outdoors rather than walking on a treadmill.  Also, to motivate yourself, just commit to walking / exercising for 5 minutes only, or a short distance like the garden parameter / street corner and back – ideally once you have started you will want to walk further.
  • Making time for hobbies and interests: these are activities that can become waylaid when stressed or down, but they are sure fire ways to recharge one’s battery and lift mood.  If you are not sure what your hobbies are, or if has been a while since you engaged in a hobby, maybe flick through your local paper to see what is on, and what might be of interest? Or fun?
  • Scheduling in family time;  even after a stressful or busy day talking with your biggest supporters can help keep you grounded, e.g. via phone, if not personal visit. 

Professional supports

Self-care and kindness can also include accessing CBT support, or attending one of our informal community Stress Busters courses.  Additionally, there is no assumption / need for anything to be "wrong" to access these supports. Instead, it is quite fine to attend these even for personal development, information and/or prevention.  

Managing barriers / problems

It is worthwhile

 Kindness and self-care can be a challenge for beginning practitioners incl those with busy lives.  As noted by Richardson (2009) self-care takes patience, commitment and practice which includes sitting with uncomfortable feelings initially such as guilt or fear (for erroneously being judged negatively). However, you deserve kindness.  Additionally, self-care and kindness are not selfish;  by respecting and caring for ourselves, we are more able to respect and care for others. You may even be a role model for others towards similar changes. 

Managing challenges however is absolutely worthwhile. A more kind and compassionate way of life will mean:

  • less fatigue and more energy each day (high adrenaline levels deplete blood sugar, so that high-stress people do report feeling very tired)
  • better physical health, incl lowered heart rate, stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels, lower blood pressure, improved fertility, improved sleep patterns and higher levels of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin
  • better psychological well-being, incl more control and choice in life; less stress, anxiety and annoyance; improved well-being and satisfaction, more purpose; greater contentment, increases in productivity, creativity and problem solving; 
  • improved relationships with family and friends, work colleagues, and within the community;  improved connections with others. When we care for ourselves, we then more naturally care for others incl friends, staff, family, the world (Richardson, 2009).