Yes indeed, there is a World Day for Kindness! It is marked on 13 November, and the idea is to promote kindness. Initiated in 1998 by a group of NGOs, it ‘aims to promote kindness throughout the world and presents us with the opportunity to reflect upon one of the most important and unifying human principles. It is a day devoted to the positive potential of both large and small acts of kindness, trying to promote and diffuse this crucial quality that brings people of every kind together.’
Kindness is defined as ‘the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate’. Kindness is obviously not to be confined to one day. But this Day is designated to prompt us to think consciously about kindness, and to make resolutions to help us practice kindness every day
It sounds simplistic. Why on earth should anyone be reminded to be kind? But when we look around us, we find there is indeed need to do so. Why look ‘around us’? We will find the same thing when we look into ourselves. Did we say a smiling thank you to someone who was nice to us? When was the last time we did anything for anyone? Do we show basic courtesies in queues, on the roads, in public places?
In a world where people are growing increasingly disconnected, and it’s all about ME, ME, ME, it definitely seems that these behaviours we used to take for granted are disappearing. Never was the need for an initiative like Kindness Day greater.
A measurable proxy for kindness is an attribute called ‘Social Mindfulness’. This refers to being thoughtful of others and considering their needs before making decisions. Social mindfulness is related personality traits of honesty, humility, empathy, agreeableness and pro-social value orientation.
There have been international studies to understand social mindfulness and associated behaviours. One of the best known studies in recent times is the one by Neils Doesum and his associates, who carried out research across 31 countries to understand differences in social mindfulness among the countries. They studied most common, everyday acts of cooperation which require very little effort– for example, stepping to a side to let someone pass on a sidewalk.
Alas, India came up near the bottom of the pack! Japanese scored the highest—they made socially mindful decisions– decisions which kept the well-being of others in mind–72% of the time. Austrians and Mexicans were also towards the top of the list. People in Indonesia were at the bottom, making such co-operative, unselfish decisions only 46% of the time. But India at 50% was not much better.
So obviously, we Indians need to be more aware of this trait, and if at all there is an occasion to be marked with earnestness, it is World Kindness Day.
And remember, it is not about some earth-shaking decisions or major actions. It is about our everyday interactions with people around us—can we make their lives more better, less difficult, more pleasant? The simplest way to start being more kind and socially mindful would probably be with the old adage ‘Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.’
Specific steps would include:
- Being conscious of the needs, feelings and thoughts of others.
- Taking these into consideration before making decisions.
- Not restricting choices available to other people by being selfish.
- Being grateful for the kindness of others, and expressing that gratitude.
- Taking a moment to help someone in need, or to make someone’s life easier.
- Making it a habit to do random acts of kindness, however small.
- Resolving to bring a smile to someone’s face, everyday.
Let’s take the occasion of World Kindness Day 2022 to start the personal journey to a more kind, caring and socially mindful world.
Go on, make your resolutions today.