Making Kindness a Habit
1 May 2021
I’m trying to make kindness a habit.
The motivation comes after I accepted an advisory role with the not-for-profit organisation Stay Kind – in April 2021. Stay Kind is a national movement of kindness, formerly the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation which was rebranded in 2019.
Stay Kind’s founder is Ralph Kelly. You can watch a video here about how he started the movement after the deaths of his son Thomas from a coward punch in King’s Cross in 2012 and the loss of second son Stuart in 2015 from suicide.
I’ll talk about the movement in other posts, but I plan to share what I’m learning about kindness in case this resonates with you too.
The first thing I’m sharing is this Ezra Klein podcast with Dr Jud Brewer on anxiety being a habit you can unlearn. I listened to it during my morning walk and blew my mind.
You see, my big problem is ruminating.
“Think of yourself in a concert hall listening to the strains of the sweetest music when you suddenly remember that you forgot to lock your car. You’re anxious about the car. You cannot walk out of the hall and you cannot enjoy the music.”
– Anthony de Mello, Jesuit Priest
Here are the main points I picked up from the podcast (duration: 1 hour):
- anxiety is a kind of addiction, and like any addiction you have to understand its rewards in order to begin addressing it.
- “We mistake excitement of the mind for happiness,” says Burmese meditation teacher Sayadaw U Pandita. It feels better to worry than not to worry.
- The brain creates habit loops: trigger – behaviour – reward (repeat)
- We can try to beat these habits with logical decision-making/willpower or self-control.
- Helpful habits like curiosity and kindness help our brains see the lack of rewards in harmful habits
- Awareness, curiosity and kindness are key for learning. Mindfulness taps into reward-based learning to help our brains see the lack of reward in harmful habits. Curiosity is that key attitude that helps us help change habits. Kindness is a bigger better offer. It feels open and expanded instead of judgmental.
So, curiosity and kindness help us break bad habits. Love this!