If you want to be really happy, skip the personal goals, sweaty selfies and salad stations. Try injecting a little bit of kindfulness in your daily life. As far as wellness trends go, ‘kindfulness’ is having its moment this year just as ‘mindfulness’ did last year. But we aren’t talking about trends. We are talking about kindness as an everyday ritual which, at its core, can build healthy, happy societies; and the lack of which can see the whole world spiral into complete chaos – a bit like our times.

World gone mad

A nasty comment about someone on Whatsapp, videos of people misbehaving, fighting, even murdering (dogs, cats and people) going viral, aggression on the road and other public places (bank and metro queues)... nowhere in time have we met our worse selves so often on a daily basis.

Ritesh Ritlim, 21, who was a part of a Kindness Meet-up Initiative in New Delhi, believes we have all reached a point where we are “tired of our own selfishness” as a species. “There are a lot of people who want to reach out to others in the smallest of ways, make someone else smile,” he says. And that was his reason for joining the meet-up arranged by Random Acts of Kindness, a non-profit organisation that believes in spreading the message of kindness. Acts of Random Kindness meet-ups are being held in Delhi and Mumbai – people come together to brainstorm on how to help others.
In his book, Kindfulness, well-known Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm says mindfulness and kindfulness are two wings to help people soar to dizzy heights of unconditional joy and peace. His talk sessions on how to turn “mindfulness into kindfulness” at Google and Facebook headquarters were much talked about.

Can kindness be taught?

Dr Ritchie Davidson from the University of Wisconsin says kindness is teachable. “It’s like weight training. We found that people can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help,” he says. Psychiatrist Dr Sagar Mundada says kindness has a lot to do with paying attention. When we are kind, we are showing someone that they mean something to us. “This simple act brings about the feeling of gratitude; and gratitude charges a flurry of positive chemicals, including endorphins, in our brain,” says Mundada.

Build your happiness DNA

New York-based philanthropist Meera Gandhi says kindness must be practised consciously as that’s when “good chemicals flow and the act of kindness registers in every cell of our bodies”. She explains why this is important. “These random acts of kindness are stored as happy memories in our brain and will eventually trigger the person to be kind again and again.” Also, when emotions like empathy, kindheartedness, intrinsically become a part of our nature, it starts to slowly change the human DNA, paving a way for a far more compassionate society in the future.

Let’s go ‘Kind-ing’

Dr David R Hamilton, author of The Five Side Effects of Kindness, says, “Survival of the fittest” should be re-angled as “survival of the kindest”. He adds, “We see something called a ‘helper’s high’ whereby a cascade of dopamine – the brain’s natural version of morphine – is released when someone does something good.” He says, “Kindness is like a drug with no hangover as it lowers blood pressure. If you want to stay younger, try some ‘kind-ing’ for that forever glow.”

So, shall we go ‘kind-ing’ today?

Daily acts of kindness

- Say hello to everyone you meet
- Give directions to someone who’s lost
- Provide water to strays in this heat
- Don’t interrupt when someone is explaining herself
- Simply say ‘I’m sorry” when wrong
- Let someone go in front of you in line
- Hold open the door for someone
- Compliment the first three people you talk to today
- Buy a plant. Put it in a terracotta pot. Write positive words that describe a friend on the pot. Give it to that friend
- Everyone is important. Learn the names of your office security guard, the person at the front desk and other people you see every day
- Don’t write the angry comment you’re thinking about on social media
- When everyone around you is gossiping, be the one to be silent
- Cook a meal for someone
- Forgive someone, and never bring up the issue again

What they said...

Kindness is education of the heart
–Dalai Lama

The world needs a revolution of tenderness
–Pope Francis

These days, it’s kind to listen to people’s stories and notice them without judging. Connecting with someone is being kind, empathising without being irritated is the new kind
–Yasmin Kidwai, filmmaker

On an everyday basis, I like to reach out to the elders. For me it’s effortless seeing someone older, asking them: can I help you? Or just hold their hand and smile. I call on my mother's friends and ask them how they are, it makes their day and mine
–Divya Dutta, actor

I will say that as I get older and calmer and quieter in my own self, the one quality in a woman that I find more and more attractive is kindness –Colin Farrell, actor

At the Kindness meet-ups, we discovered that people who were helping to build another person’s self-confidence felt a huge positive impact in their own lives too
— Ritesh Ritlim, member of The Kindness Initiative

Kindness is like a drug with no hangover as it lowers blood pressure. If you want to stay younger, try some ‘kind-ing’ for that forever glow
— Dr David R Hamilton