By: Lizzy Rode

My favorite fun fact to tell people is that I have seven roommates – you can imagine how unorganized our household can become in a short amount of time. Last Saturday, I brought out all the ingredients for sugar cookies. I shuffled through the kitchen in search of the correct utensils and pans for my recipe, but couldn’t seem to find any clean mixing bowls. I began my search outside of the kitchen until I finally made it to the third floor with no bowls insight. Surprisingly, in the corner of my eye, I spotted the green cooking bowl outside one of my roommate’s bedroom. As I got closer I noticed there was an abundance of plates, cups, mugs, chopsticks, and of course more cooking bowls. As a person who prides herself on her routinely consistent dishwashing skills, at the moment I was ready to approach her about the situation. But, instead, I took a step back and decided to approach the annoyance by trying to give kindness to my roommate. 

Later that day I approached my roommate in her bedroom to ask her, “How are you feeling lately?”, to better understand how she is and how to approach the situation. She sighed and explained how she hasn’t been feeling motivated lately and has been having a difficult time getting assignments done. I was so grateful that I gave my roommate kindness in this situation because I would have never known that she was struggling. I knew the best way to address the overflow of dishes she collected in her bedroom was to offer my help. It was a balancing act for the journey from the third floor to the kitchen, and it only took ten minutes of my time to help out my roommate. Even though this act of kindness was small, I know that it was worth all the effort to have a positive experience with my roommate and boost her happiness.   

Defining Kindness

Every day we are presented with opportunities to show others the gift of kindness, even the smallest acts can provide deep impacts. Whether it’s from listening to coworkers discuss an issue they’re facing, sharing some of your dinner with your friend, or even helping a stranger stand up after a wicked slip on ice. What exactly is kindness and what does kindness mean? The act of kindness can be described as doing something for others with ethically good intentions. Although not everyone has identical definitions of kindness, that is okay as long as the acts of kindness are performed with good intentions. Even if you offer someone who is vegan a hamburger, they’ll be grateful for the offer because it was with positive intentions.

There are many gifts within kindness, but it is crucial that you are also able to be kind to yourself as well as others. It’s easy to forget that we’re able to cheer ourselves on and that can start with taking notice of how we think about ourselves. Proceeding that, show others kindness like a winter cold is contagious. With that in mind, kindness can be small and without an audience, but is still meaningful. Like the act of stocking up the bathroom to make it easier to change the toilet paper, or leaving pencils around a classroom so everyone is able to write,  

Kindness is as Contagious as a Cold

The act of kindness has a ripple effect because it encourages, both the do-gooder and recipient to continue to do kind acts when presented with the opportunity. In other words, if you offer someone a cookie, they may be more encouraged to offer some milk to accompany the cookies. According to a study conducted by the University of Cambridge, simply observing another person help someone gives viewers a positive feeling. This encourages us to try and do something kind, as well as to feel a sense of accomplishment by making others feel good. 

Ways to Be Kind to Yourself

In order to be kind to others, it is important to remember to be kind to yourself, first to be able to provide the world with more kindness. 

This can mean: 

  • Eating well – Having three meals a day and providing yourself with the necessary nutrients to feel strong. 
  • Exercising – Providing your body with movement and stretches leads to better sleep, releases endorphins, and can put you in a space to meet more people. 
  • Trying new activities – Take yourself out of your comfort zone and try something you are interested in. You never know what you could be missing out on!
  • Sleeping enough – In order to get the best sleep, the best way is to get a routine in order. 
  • Speaking kindly about yourself – Always try to be your biggest fan. 
  • Taking the necessary mental breaks – It’s important to relax and reflect on your expectations, thoughts, and mental health.

Kindness Boosts Your Own Happiness

The effect of performing acts of kindness can improve happiness and overall well being based on a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. They also found that the more someone demonstrates acts of kindness, the more their happiness increases. This is another ripple effect within the act of kindness. For this study, the experimenters asked participants randomly to perform one more act of kindness than usual for seven days. Their happiness was measured before and after the experiment and proceeding the experiment, participants that performed an additional act of kindness were happier. 

Compassion is Kindness

We often think of kindness as grand gestures to make others happy, but it is important to recognize that kindness usually offers no material rewards or even an audience. Kindness can be the simple use of compassion and understanding. This can mean that even when you are confronted with a roommate who has moved the dishware into their bedroom, to approach them with understanding first. This can be a difficult task, but it is exceptionally rewarding to acknowledge when someone is not being themselves and ask them how they are doing. This recognition shows that you care about them and are compassionate about their life and wellbeing. In my experience, the use of compassion is exceptionally rewarding when it comes to friendships. 

Opportunities for Kindness Every Day 

The best way to spread kindness is in your everyday life, especially when presented with opportunities that you wouldn’t normally act upon. By taking the time to reflect on situations and decipher how to be kind, it can make the world around you a kinder place as well. One easy opportunity to be kind is by asking the people in your life how they’re doing and listening. Another is by trying to speak, listen, and use your body language with kindness in mind. 

Volunteer Opportunities This Season 

There are great volunteer opportunities anywhere you live, here are some great resources to connect you to the best opportunities for you:

  • Volunteer match – This non-profit provides great opportunities to volunteer with some non-profits that you are personally passionate about. 
  • HandsOn Twin Cities – For residents of the Twin Cities, this non-profit helps to provide relevant volunteer opportunities for individuals this holiday season. 

For local residents, some other great opportunities nearby are:

  • People Serving People – Whose mission is, “People Serving People helps homeless and at-risk children and their families manage crisis situations and build a strong foundation for their long-term success.”
  • Second Harvest Heartland – This local non-profits mission is to help the location population by providing food. They are seeking fresh food distributors, skilled volunteers, and volunteers to package food. 
  • Open Arms MN – Whose mission is to provide food to nourish individuals who are in need. They are in need of volunteers in their kitchen, office, at their farms, and to deliver meals. 
  • Pet Heaven – The mission of this non-profit is to rescue and re-home pets, support companion animal welfare, and advocate for animals. They’re in need of volunteers to foster, help organize donations, train animals, host events, and much more. 

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