In a world that’s characterised by an increasingly fast pace and growing egocentricity, it’s easy to overlook the simple yet profound power of kindness.

From small gestures of compassion to acts of generosity and empathy, kindness has the remarkable ability to uplift spirits, foster connection and promote overall wellbeing and, as we navigate the complexities of our modern world, embracing kindness as a guiding principle can have profound benefits for our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
   
During certain times of the year, like the festive holiday season, we’re encouraged and reminded to be kind. However, kindness is not just a seasonal sentiment; it’s a timeless virtue that can be practised year-round, enriching our lives and the lives of those around us in immeasurable ways.
   
At its core, kindness is an expression of empathy and compassion towards others. Whether it’s offering a listening ear to a friend in need, lending a helping hand to a stranger, or simply sharing a smile with someone passing by, acts of kindness have the power to brighten someone’s day and create ripple effects of positivity.
   
Research has shown that practising kindness can have tangible benefits for our health and wellbeing and studies have found that acts of kindness trigger the release of feel-good hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins, which promote feelings of happiness and reduce stress levels.
   
Additionally, engaging in acts of kindness has been linked to lower blood pressure, improved immune function and increased longevity.
   
Moreover, kindness has a transformative effect on our relationships, fostering deeper connections and strengthening social bonds. When we approach interactions with kindness and compassion, we create a supportive and nurturing environment where trust and mutual respect can flourish.
     
This sense of connection and belonging is essential for our mental and emotional wellbeing, providing a sense of security and validation that contributes to overall happiness and fulfilment.

When I’ve gone through my darkest times, if someone checked in on me with kindness or sent a bouquet of flowers or a chocolate hamper or just took me out for coffee, it made me feel less alone and that, in itself, makes a world of difference.

I’ve also learnt that it’s also important to stay away from people who trigger you – even if its family – and those who drain your energy. When I’m around positive people who uplift me, it’s harder to fall back down the dark pit.

Kindness is contagious and when we lead by example, we inspire others to pay it forward, creating a chain reaction of compassion and goodwill that transcends boundaries and unites communities.

So how can we incorporate kindness into our daily lives and make it a priority year-round? Here are some simple yet meaningful ways to practise kindness:

  • Start with yourself:

When experiencing mental health issues, it’s very difficult to be kind to yourself but self-compassion is the foundation of kindness. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would extend to a loved one. Practise self-care rituals that nourish your mind, body and spirit and be gentle with yourself during times of struggle or adversity. Take a day off work, book a massage, cancel dinner plans if you aren’t feeling up to it. 

For me, it’s often the simple act of walking my dog to see his joy – even when it’s the last thing I feel like – and watching a funny movie or series and spending more time with my son are also a tonic.
     I was initially very hard on myself when going through a depressive cycle. I would instinctively berate myself and see myself as a hopeless failure.
      I had to learn a very valuable lesson: That the difficult times are when it’s most important to be compassionate towards myself. To recognise that I was merely stuck in a moment and would eventually come out the other side.
      I would name this negative voice Rita and say to myself: “Ah, Rita is here to visit and she is going to try and convince me that I am unworthy but she will pass.” I do not suffer from schizophrenia but naming negative inner critic dissociates your feelings from yourself.
     What also helped was going for a massage to feel the connection of touch with another human and trying to sleep more to feel more balanced.
     And one of the best things I’ve done for myself is to establish an SOS group – close friends who would drop anything if I felt I wasn’t coping, people I felt safe reaching out to without feeling judged. 

  • Be present and mindful:

Take the time to truly listen and be present with others. Show genuine interest and empathy towards their experiences and offer your support and encouragement without judgment. A kind word or a compassionate gesture can make a world of difference to someone in need. 

  • Practice random acts of kindness:

Look for opportunities to perform random acts of kindness throughout your day. Whether it’s buying a coffee for the person behind you in line, complimenting a stranger on their smile, or leaving a kind note for a co-worker, small gestures can have a big impact. 

  • Volunteer and give back:

Get involved in your community and lend your time and talents to causes you care about. Whether it’s volunteering at a local soup kitchen, participating in a charity run, or organising a fundraiser, giving back to others is a powerful way to spread kindness and make a positive difference in the world. 

  • Spread positivity online:

Use social media as a platform for spreading positivity and kindness rather than negativity. Share uplifting content, inspirational quotes, or acts of kindness to brighten someone’s day. Engage in meaningful conversations and promote kindness and empathy in your online interactions. 

  • Practise forgiveness:

Let go of resentment and grudges by practising forgiveness towards yourself and others. Holding onto negative emotions only harms your mental and emotional wellbeing. By choosing to forgive, you free yourself from the burden of anger and resentment, allowing kindness and compassion to flourish. 

  • Cultivate gratitude:

Take time each day to reflect on the blessings in your life and express gratitude for the people and experiences that bring you joy. Gratitude is the ultimate expression of kindness, reminding us to appreciate the beauty and abundance that surround us. 

You never know what someone is going through and just being kind can make a big difference to their frame of mind. Kindness can be as simple as giving personal space, time off to an employee, a text or call to check in or sending some choccies or a message someone’s way.

    If you know that someone is going through a difficult time, asking them how they are can seem like a loaded question which needs a full answer. Instead, simply ask them if they are OK. That way, the pressure is off and their simple one-word answer will let you know if they need help or even just a hug.
      As we embrace the spirit of kindness and compassion, let us remember that it is always in season. By cultivating a culture of kindness in our homes, communities and workplaces, we can create a brighter, more compassionate world for ourselves, our loved ones, people we encounter regularly or by chance and future generations to come.
     Remember, kindness is not just a virtue; it’s a way of life that can transform the lives of others and bring joy and fulfilment to your own life as well. So let us commit to spreading kindness wherever we go, knowing that even the smallest acts of compassion have the power to make a lasting impact.

Yael Geffen is the CEO and shareholder of Sotheby’s International Realty, South Africa. She grew up in a real estate dynasty established by her grandmother, Aida, and, prior to joining the family business in 2009, she acquired extensive real estate marketing, brand building and business development experience in the United States. Yael is also an accomplished public and motivational speaker and her broadcast experience includes hosting and producing her own radio show from 2013 to 2017. Yael is a sought-after Life and Business Strategy Advisor.