Getting upset when things don’t go as planned is a normal response for many people. Some common instances that often cause people to become upset include:

  • When someone doesn’t accelerate for a few seconds after the traffic light turns green, honking your horn is a natural response, right? Maybe you’re frustrated because you’re late for work so you honk two or three times to galvanize the driver ahead of you.
  • Another stranger takes a longer-than-usual amount of time paying for their groceries. You let out an audible sigh and direct an impatient expression toward that person.
  • There was a mix-up on a bill and you were charged extra. On the phone call, you yell at the customer service representative to vent your anger at the situation.

The problem is when that reaction is directed at another person who likely is experiencing their own struggles that you have no way of knowing about. The driver might’ve been distracted by wondering how they’ll pay this month’s bills. The grocery shopper might be facing financial struggles and are unsure of which of their credit cards won’t be declined. The customer service representative, who probably had nothing to do with the billing mistake, could be struggling with self-esteem issues and you yelling only heightened their anxiety.

It’s common for people to forget to be empathetic toward others. However, Nov. 3 is World Kindness Day 2018. While we should always strive to show and promote kindness to one another, World Kindness Day is an opportunity to focus on reducing situations in which we might normally get frustrated and take that frustration out on another person. It’s important to be aware of how we talk to one another and how that can have consequences. According to the World Health Organization, around 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental health disorder at some point in their life, and 450 million people worldwide currently suffer from a mental illness such as anxiety or depression. Engaging in negative interactions with people who face these disorders can have massive mental health consequences. That car honking, exaggerated sigh or yelling-filled phone call can stick with the recipient for the rest of their day, or even cause them to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

On World Kindness Day 2018, staying calm during these situations can save someone from feeling the effects of their mental illness, or even just the effects of a random bad day. Even something as simple as being honked at, sighed at or yelled at by a stranger can make someone feel insecure, anxious, nervous and many other emotions and effects. Choosing the opposite interaction — smiling, asking if someone needs help, being understanding — can have the opposite effect, helping someone feel relaxed rather than on edge. While there are coping mechanisms for people to have control over their own mental health, others still frequently have an effect, either positively or negatively. Being aware of this power is important and can help people show more empathy.

On World Kindness Day we should prioritize positive interactions with one another, even if that means holding in our frustrations. Then, try and continue that kindness into the days, weeks, and months following the occasion. Doing so can help countless people who are dealing with struggles unknown to you. Kindness from a stranger can go a long way to lift someone’s spirits.