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Activism

11 ways to make the world a kinder place

For World Kindness Day, we bring you 11 ways you can show some kindness… and maybe feel better too.

World Kindness Day, which takes place every year on November 13, is a celebration of the ties that bind our communities together. Thousands of tiny acts of kindness turning from ripples into waves and spreading hope and goodness around the world. 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.”

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 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.

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Mental health campaigner and novelist Matt Haig says kindness can offer “a way out” if you’re dealing with depression or anxiety.

“Mental illness, through no fault of our own, very often makes you self-absorbed. It sends you inward. There’s a therapeutic, healing effect of caring. It’s this paradox: often behaviour we see as selfless, is actually in a very deep sense self-serving. It’s actually good for us,” he explains.

“Self-care is actually caring for others, they’re not opposites. And I really, genuinely believe that it’s good for our brain chemistry, it’s good for our lives and our relationships. And it’s good for the world we live in.”

To help you and your community, The Big Issue has brought together 11 suggestions for how you can celebrate World Kindness Day 2021. Because, as Aesop wrote in The Lion and the Mouse, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Engage your empathy online

We live in a culture that is all too quick to judge people, often without really knowing the full context of their actions. Before you share your righteous hot take on Twitter, Haig suggests a few questions you might want to ask yourself first: “Why am I talking about this? Am I trying to make the world better? Or am I just venting? Am I performing a little bit? Is there a better way to affect change than targeting individuals?”

Give to a local food bank

In the wake of the £20 government cut to universal credit, foodbanks are struggling to keep up with demand. Recently, Sabine Goodwin, coordinator for the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), told us that low supplies have forced a number of independent food banks – which often have fewer resources and less funding than larger projects – to reduce the size of the parcels they distribute.

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 guide.

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.

Donate your old furniture

Furniture poverty is on the rise in the UK. The campaign group End Furniture Poverty estimates that 4.8 million people are living without at least one essential appliance and only two per cent of social housing comes furnished.

So the next time you’re updating the look of your home, why not give your old furniture a new life by donating it to someone in need? As a bonus, it’s also more environmentally friendly than sticking it in the dump. Read how you can get donating here

Smile

Even a fake smile releases endorphins and serotonin, which elevate your mood and act as natural painkillers, so slapping on a grin is a good way to make yourself feel better. But it can also be a really easy act of kindness. Smiling is contagious, so when you smile at someone, there’s a good chance they’ll reciprocate. Then they can enjoy all the lovely brain chemicals too.

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.

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. 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.

Volunteer your time

If you’re lucky enough to have some free time, volunteering to help others is a rewarding, and kind, thing to do. On World Kindness Day, make a plan for how you could help this Christmas. Volunteering is a great way to get physical exercise boost your wellbeing, make friends and developing new skills. 

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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.

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