It’s November; our summer holiday is a distant memory, and we’re not quite ready for the carefree attitude and glittering excitement of December. It’s dark, cold and all too easy to feel a bit sorry for ourselves. Need cheering up? I’m a big believer in self-care, and making someone else feel good is an incredibly powerful and less obvious way to break a negative cycle.
We’re perhaps all guilty of becoming self-absorbed at times, which is understandable considering the pressures of daily life. Our problems are big enough, without taking on someone else’s. But there is a natural pleasure and feeling of warmth that comes with kindness, and scientific research shows it can make you happier and healthier.
Kindness stimulates our four happy hormones: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. Collectively, these help boost our mood and increase self-esteem, whilst easing depression, stress and anxiety. Making a habit of being kind should keep our ‘feel good’ vibes alive. The little things really do make a big difference, and it will eventually become second nature.
Tell someone they look nice
How do you feel when someone tells you they love your hair, or your top really suits you, or your skin looks amazing? Good, right? A personal compliment can really lift your spirits, particularly if it’s unexpected. Try it at work with a colleague, or when you next greet a friend. Go a step further and tell a stranger when you’re queuing for the loo or waiting for your almond latte; it’s a great way to break the awkward silence.
Ask the question, ‘How are you?’
Whenever I’m in a café, shop, or restaurant, I always ask the person serving me, ‘How are you?’ This often prompts a surprised glance followed by a relieved smile. Doesn’t that show how few people do this? Making someone feel appreciated goes a long way. Try it!
Cook for some friends
Going out is fun. A girls’ night in with a takeaway or film is a great way to wind down. But there is something very rewarding about cooking for close friends. You don’t have to turn it into a makeshift episode of MasterChef, but you can probably do better than a pot of hummus and bag of Kettle Chips to accompany the craft gin. Making a little effort, and enjoying the simple pleasure of sitting around a table with good food and great chats, is incredibly wholesome. And try to avoid posting it on Instagram; cherish being in the moment and making your guests, and yourself, feel loved.
Smile at a stranger
City life is very serious. We brush past each other; heads down. We’d rather look at our phones than awkwardly catch anyone’s eye. Of course, you don’t want to give someone the wrong idea, but try giving a stranger a genuine smile as you pass them on your commute, in the street or in a coffee shop. It’s a step in the right direction to making the world a happier place.
Talk to a neighbour
Have we lost our sense of community? Considering its dense population, the city can be a very lonely place. When I lived in London, I barely knew what my neighbours looked like, let alone ever striking up a conversation with them. When I moved out, some of my neighbours (we can’t get on with everyone!) became my friends. One of the older ladies on the street brought me flowers when my eldest daughter was born; it gave me a sense of belonging and made me feel safe. Do you know who lives next door?
So much of this uncertain world is out of our control, but a combined effort can make a significant change. Kindness is infectious. Start now, and see what you can do to make a difference.