It seems so obvious to point out that our happiness largely depends on our capacity to offer kindness (thoughtfulness, consideration, good humour) to others – as well as our willingness to receive the kindness that others can offer us.
That largely means getting over our temptations to criticize, disparage and disappoint… It doesn’t mean that we will then avoid suffering and not have some deeply difficult challenges, but we will meet them and get through them so differently if our fundamental attitude is one of consideration, respect and (day I say it?) cheerfulness. We will also be much easier to be around. That’s no small thing.
I could have called the most practical of my books – which is called Choosing Happiness – Choosing Kindness. However, I suspect that most of us feel on safer ground thinking about happiness. Yet really those two complex qualities grow back to back and while we cannot always choose happiness, we can mostly choose the kinder or less kind attitude or action. Choice becomes very real. And, with that, self-empowerment and self-respect.
One last thought: never underestimate your power to lift the spirits of someone else.
You will never know when it is your kind word, or easy moment of patience, or a brief willingness to listen, that makes all the difference for someone else. Perhaps it gives them back a sense of connection, or brings comfort, or reminds them that they matter. Giving in those ways enhances other lives; sometimes it saves our own.