No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. —Aesop
Depending upon the family in which you were raised, the messages you received growing up, and the makeup of your personality, emotions such as kindness, appreciation, and compassion may or may not come naturally to you. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to bring them into your interactions with others. Kindness, appreciation, and compassion are emotions that correlate directly with certain actions and can be developed with intention and attention.
Practicing such actions constructs and fortifies neural pathways associated with these emotions. These actions act as water and fertilizer, helping to cultivate kindness, appreciation, and compassion, so they bloom more fully and we feel them more deeply. Whatever we pay attention to gets bigger, whether it’s helpful and healthy or unhelpful and unhealthy. Our attention is like water, whatever we water grows larger.
We can choose to water the flowers rather than the weeds of our cognitive and emotional garden by tuning in to feelings of kindness, appreciation, and compassion, bringing them to mind, and paying attention to actions that expand our conscious contact with them. This can begin with seemingly tiny practices like sharing a smile, extending a few kindhearted words, and being emotionally present with those we come into contact with. These simple yet precious practices soften the heart and, to borrow a term from boxing, punch way above their weight. They don’t cost anything extra and we can easily engage with them, even when we’re having a difficult day.
The quality of our environment is a function of what we all bring to it. Each of these micro-practices surfaces small islands of shared kindness and connection. They provide incredibly simple yet meaningful ways you can contribute to the overall quality of your experience, and that of others.