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11 ways to make the world a kinder place

Today is World Kindness Day. Here are 11 ways you can show some socially-distanced kindness… and maybe feel better too

World Kindness Day, which takes place every year on November 13, is an attempt to bring people together. Thousands of tiny acts of kindness turning from ripples into waves and spreading good vibes around the world. Lord knows we need it this year. And you can join the celebration by pledging to do one kind thing today.

“I do believe that kindness is the most important thing that we have, as human beings, to make everybody’s life better,” says David Jamilly, founder of the non-profit Kindness UK.

“Kindness is a positive value that encompasses a lot of other values like compassion, altruism, empathy, sympathy.

“We’re in a very, very challenged world at the moment and the only way that we can work together and communicate together, find solutions together, have community together, is through kindness.”

Jamilly says that recent years have brought lots of evidence that kindness can have a positive impact. “It is irrefutable that kindness to others benefits society at large and community at large,” he added.

But the more surprising thing is that in being kind, we are not just helping others, we are healing ourselves. Numerous studies have shown that people who carry out more acts of kindness feel better themselves.

In an April 2020 survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 63 per cent of UK adults agreed that when other people are kind to them it had a positive impact on their mental health. The same proportion said the reverse – being kind to other people had a positive impact on their own mental health.

“There’s a saying that the best way to help yourself is to help someone else,” said Jamilly. “It’s a very strange phenomenon. If you’re feeling really terrible, and you make yourself go out and do something for someone else, then that comes back to you and helps you through your difficult time.”

To help you and your community, The Big Issue has brought together 11 suggestions for how you can celebrate World Kindness Day 2020. Because, as Aesop wrote in The Lion and the Mouse, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Say a kind word to your shopkeeper

If we didn’t realise it before, 2020 has certainly taught us that the people who staff our supermarkets and corner shops are vital. They deserve a heart-felt thank you for going to work every day while so many are holed up at home. And some kind words to tell them how grateful you are could be the start of something bigger. 

“This little example is actually a huge example,” said Jamilly, “because the ripple effect from going to the shop tonight and making the shopkeeper feel good goes on to I can’t tell you how many other people.” 

Donate winter coats to homeless people

Have you got a coat in your wardrobe that you no longer need? Instead of cluttering up your house, that coat could be keeping someone warm – and maybe even saving their life. There are thousands of people sleeping rough in the UK. Your kindness could keep someone warm when they have nowhere to go. 

The Wrap Up winter coat drive is accepting pre-loved donations in London until November 14, and Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Leicester until November 22. 

Change a child’s story

This year, more so than ever before, there will be children who may not be looking forward to Christmas. But by giving £10 to the BookTrust festive appeal, you could send a book to a vulnerable child. 

It might even change their life as a similar gift did for author Damian Barr, who’s supporting the appeal. 

“One Christmas I got some books from a charity like this. They were the first books I owned,” he said. “I’ve given what I can, I hope you can too. Thanks for helping to change a child’s story.” 

Give to a local food bank

According to the latest figures from the Trussell Trust, food bank use has more than doubled in the last six years. The coronavirus crisis has meant there are many more families in need of urgent help to feed themselves.

“Our research finds that Covid-19 has led to tens of thousands of new people needing to use a food bank for the first time,” said Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie.

You can donate food staples, toiletries and other essentials, or you can even set up a direct debit to make a regular cash donation. Find a food bank near you and the kind of items you can donate with The Big Issue’s recent guide.

dog in shelter
dog in shelter
Photo: Nhandler

Give a dog a bone (or a kitty some kibble)

Animals need kindness too. Across Britain, the RSPCA and SSPCA look after thousands of abused, abandoned, neglected or unwanted animals. Many centres run Amazon Wish Lists, so in just a few clicks you could send some nourishment and comfort to a good doggo, or purring pussy cat. 

You don’t even need to get out of your pyjamas. In Scotland, the SSPCA has a handy directory of all the local lists. If you’d like to donate in England or Wales, you can find out how by searching for your local RSPCA rescue centre.

Pick up litter on your daily walk

This year, we’ve all become more connected to our local neighbourhoods. We’ve noticed the beauty in our area, but you’ve possibly also noticed discarded facemasks and other litter. 

Today, when you go on out for a walk, bring a bag and pop on a pair of gloves. Set yourself the challenge of picking up ten bits of litter. Imagine the impact if everyone you saw was doing the same. 

Leave a legacy

The benefits of kindness don’t rely on you knowing the recipient. One of the most Earth-shaking ways you can be kind right now is to pledge to donate your organs to someone else when you die.

Last year, The Big Issue spoke to organ donation campaigner Jim Lynskey before he sadly died while waiting for a heart transplant. He said there is a terrible shortage of donated organs. 

“I’ve known a patient to be on the urgent list for seven months, sat in hospital, being kept alive by external pumps and other apparatus. It speaks volumes that on an urgent waiting list, it’s a seven-month wait at times. It’s just shocking.” Find out about being an organ donor here. And remember – it’s vital that you tell your family and friends about your wishes.

Phone someone you love

Stop and think for a minute. Who could use a phone call? Not a text, an honest-to-god phone call. Social distancing and lockdowns mean most of us are seeing fewer people than we ever normally would. If you know someone who might be feeling lonely right now, be the one to pick up the phone.

Write a positive comment

The internet is full of negative comments. Let’s change that. Next time you see a stellar social media post or read a well-written article, let the person know! Together we can create a kinder online experience.

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Don’t forget to be kind to yourself

This isn’t a selfish aim. “If you are good to your body and your mind, then you are much more likely to be to have some spare capacity to throw out,” said Jamilly. “If you are kind to yourself, it’s much easier to do things for others.”

It might be taking time for a breathing exercise, going for a run, or making yourself a nice warm hot chocolate. Whatever recharges your batteries to face another day. And if you’d like to treat yourself to lots more ideas around kindness, you can even join the online Kindfest, which features the likes of Captain Sir Tom Moore, musician Billy Bragg, and philosopher AC Grayling.