From time to time, as artists and in our various other roles, we’ve all felt as though we are suffocating: Under the weight of a deadline. Under a pile of rejection letters. Under your peers’ seemingly-impossible successes. Or simply beneath the weight of a bad day.
In heavier times, the smallest gesture of courtesy or compassion can feel like a breath of fresh air. It may be what gets someone through the day, or the week, or the month. Or even the year.
Likewise, when we function optimally in a happy zone, it behooves us to observe with empathy the people around us. You can never be sure what unspoken sufferings and frustrations trouble the lives of our significant others, friends, family, coworkers, friendquaintances, or perfect strangers.
In our busy U.S. culture (especially in the Northeast, from whence I hail), we’d do better to offer one another more daily acts of simple kindness. Offer your subway seat to a pregnant woman. Help someone carry their grocery bags to their destination. Ask your depressed coworker, “How are you?” Smile at a stranger. Hold the elevator for someone. Hold the door for someone. Let a fellow driver into your lane; yes, even during rush hour. These very simple acts cultivate a culture of kindness that all can benefit from both as giver and receiver, no matter how happy or unhappy we are.
Additionally, practicing kindness opens us to the broader human experience, which better informs our creation of art. Science agrees this is good for our own selves, too. Artists, specifically writers, tend toward inwardness, and like all people, we have issues which can be somewhat alleviated by our own benevolence. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found socially anxious people felt their unquiet significantly alleviated, and an increase in positive mood by regularly doing things for others. Altruism is for your self-preservation, conscious or not.
To get specific, psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California Riverside found that doing a kind deed once a week leads to a greater sense of overall happiness. Once a week!? And this deed can, over time, increase lifespan and life satisfaction. Sign me up. And remind me of this post mid-Winter, when I’m dragging myself around in a seasonal affective disorder slump.
Lauren Kronisch is a nutrition nerd by day, writer by night. With degrees in history and nutritional science, when she’s not counseling clients to eat a balanced diet, you’ll find her traveling the world’s mountaintops or chomping on dark chocolate while writing poetry, creative non-fiction, and nutrition articles.