In the inaugural episode of As Me with Sinéad, her guest Victoria Beckham often brings the conversation back to her youngest child, eight-year-old daughter Harper. She says she is mindful of how her children are perceived and how her children perceive the world; endeavoring to keep them humble and kind in their rarefied positions as the children of celebrity royalty.
In particular, Victoria tells Sinéad that she reminds Harper that it doesn’t matter who is the prettiest or most popular person in a room, it’s kindness that matters. So, do you wannabe more like Victoria Beckham? We have precious little advice regarding buying or wearing Gucci dresses. But maybe we can help you stretch your kindness muscles!
We get it: kindness, ugh. Such an easy thing to do, such an easy thing to absolutely forget in the middle of your day when you’re juggling work and kids and partners and traffic and long lines and lists and microaggressions and a dog you haven’t managed to housebreak and YES, OF COURSE IT’S TIME FOR MY FLU SHOT I WILL GET TO IT.
Kindness takes time. It makes demands of your brain when you’re on auto-pilot. In short: kindness is friends with mindfulness, that elusive state you’re always chasing but never reaching. So, let’s start there.
Three simple ways to practice mindfulness
Look, don’t get caught up in what sounds like a buzzword. Mindfulness is simply being present in your head rather than being torn in ten directions at once. Our natural state in this age is to multi-task. Fuck that. Mindfulness asks you to focus on one very simple action, which will feel completely wild at first. It takes you out of your worries, sometimes even your physical pains. You are all awareness, all movement. Your thinking changes from solving to experiencing.
So here are three very simple exercises. You can do one every day. You can do three every week. Just set a reminder on your phone and give it a shot.
- Eating mindfully: This isn’t a diet tip. This is a sitting down with a small morsel of food: a grape, a square of chocolate. Something you will find interesting. Take a small bite. Notice how it feels in your mouth. Chew it very slowly. Note all of the sensations in your head, or say them out loud to no one. Beyond its present sensations, what memories does it bring up for you? Basically, analyze this tiny piece of food until there is nothing left to say about it. You will quickly find that there is much more going on in each moment of your life than you realize.
- Mindful awareness: You repeat many actions throughout a day. Choose one and choose to be aware when it happens. A popular exercise is to use going through doorways as a tripwire for a mindful moment. Start with one doorway per day. Approach it thoughtfully. Touch the handle or the door frame. Think about where you are heading next. Walk through it with some reverence. Then go on with your day. If you do this regularly, you will find that you start to notice every doorway that you go through, and you will realize there are many opportunities in your life for mindful moments.
- Five senses exercise: If you’re more of a “sit down and let’s do this work” sort of person, this exercise is for you. Set a time to do this maybe twice per day, set a phone reminder, whatever you need. You will spend a couple of minutes indulging in your five senses: note five things that you see, four things that you can feel near you, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste — even if it’s just opening your mouth to taste the air.
If you’re constantly in your head ticking off your to-do list, you’ll rarely find the time for kindness. Once you have some kind of mindfulness practice down, you’ll be better equipped to notice more of the world around you and the people near you who could use a little help. So, what then? Acts of kindness are pretty situational and we trust that you’ll figure out how to deploy it when it’s called for, but here are just a few ideas:
- Ask someone how they’re feeling (not doing) today, and then listen to the answer.
- Compliment a stranger’s style or shoe or color of shirt.
- Ask a harried coworker what they need that can be done in a few minutes.
- Say “good morning” or “hello” to someone on the street.
- Send a short email to a favorite business simply telling them that you’re a happy customer.
- Leave a post-it note somewhere that says, “You got this” or “You are loved” or whatever you would like to see on a random post-it note.
- Hand out cold water or hand warmers to service workers outdoors.
- Send a thank you note to someone who was kind to YOU.
The possibilities are pretty endless here, folks. Practice making room, and then make that room for others in whatever way you’d like. Victoria Beckham would be proud.