On November 13, 2019, people across the globe will take the day to be kind to others and celebrate kindness. World Kindness Day officially began in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement, and is now observed in countries like Canada, Japan, Australia, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates. The idea behind the day is to focus on just being kind to others and doing random acts of kindness. The movement recognizes the power of positivity and the thread of kindness that unites people regardless of nationality, race, gender or any other divide.

One of the most powerful things about being kind to others is that the action is not only rewarding to the receiver ⁠— it’s also beneficial for the giver. Kindness is one of those rare things that can multiply and grow the more it’s bestowed.

Why Practice Kindness?

It can be easy to lose sight of being understanding of others. Stress creeps in and getting upset when things don’t go as planned is a normal response for many people. For instance, when someone is slowing you down in the grocery store line or you have to call to speak to a customer service representative, you may end up directing your impatience and frustrations at those people.

The problem is that you are reacting to a situation, perhaps only thinking of yourself and your day. The other person is likely experiencing their own struggles that you have no way of knowing about. 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 issue you’re reporting, could be struggling with self-esteem issues and your yelling only heightened their anxiety.

World Kindness Day — and every day —  is an opportunity to focus on empathy along with reducing the number of situations where frustration is taken 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 conditions can have 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, 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. Choosing the kinder interaction — smiling, asking if someone needs help, being understanding — can help someone else have a better day and improve your own mood at the same time. Being aware of this power is important and can help people show more empathy.

Kindness in Recovery

Being kind to others and using your time to volunteer or be in service to others can be particularly valuable during recovery. People who are recovering from addiction need a lot of support during this challenging time. Encouraging them to keep attending those AA or NA meetings, telling them how proud you are of them and doing what you can to support their decision to get sober can make a huge difference.

Additionally, people in recovery may find that doing random acts of kindness and helping others makes them feel happy, valuable and good about being in a position to serve others.

  • Some ways you can practice kindness in your community might be to:

    • Treat someone ⁠— a friend or even a stranger ⁠— to a cup of coffee or tea.
    • Give someone a compliment.
    • Send an uplifting text or email to a friend or family member.
    • Make someone smile.
    • Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.

For those in recovery, Kindness Day is not only an opportunity to practice kindness towards others, it’s a reminder to show kindness to yourself. Your self-talk plays an important role in coping with triggers and preventing relapse. Having patience with yourself and releasing guilt and shame in favor of kindness towards yourself can keep you on your recovery journey.

On World Kindness Day, we should prioritize positive interactions with one another and ourselves. Kindness from a stranger can go a long way to lift someone’s spirits. Kindness towards yourself can help you make better choices for your overall health and wellbeing.