Happy New Year! And with that, we're into another year. I don't know about you, but I'm not one for grand New Years resolutions, which may or may not prove successful in a few weeks time. What I do enjoy, though, is to use the New Year as a chance to reflect and re-evaluate, and commit to improving on the things that were already going well last year, with maybe a few new to-dos along the way. And after a month of using My Kindness Advent Calendar and practicing daily acts of kindness in our home and community, it's of course on my list to keep up with the kindness and continue to make kindness a habit and natural response, as opposed to a grand gesture.
If you loved your daily kindness practice during advent season, or want to start one this new year, here are some easy ways to focus on kindness to start off the new year. These are the things I'm thinking about in 2019!
Respond with kindness
This is what I try to do all the time as a parent and person, and so it's not so much of a resolution but more of a reminder for 2019. To always respond with kindness. Which, as a busy working parent with two young kids with selective listening skills and child-minded priorities, can be challenging at times! But it always leads to a better result, in my experience. Instead of resorting to rushing or yelling or frustration, try first to respond with kindness. Kiddo's having a hard time getting to school in the morning? Maybe they are anxious about leaving their parents or are nervous about a new concept at school. Someone cuts you off on the drive to work? Maybe they're late for an important meeting or heard that their kid is sick and is rushing home. Partner forgot to take out the trash or do the dishes last night? Maybe they had a hard day at work and just needed the extra rest. Or maybe not, to all of these things. But more often than not, there's more than meets the eye, and you never know what a person is dealing with behind the scenes, so I try to respond with kindness instead of frustration in challenging times. (And it doesn't always happen, but it's the thought that counts!)
Do a random act of kindness
Have you ever done a random act of kindness for a stranger? Bought coffee for someone in line behind you, cleared off a stranger's snowy car, or left an extra treat in the vending machine for the next lucky customer? There's something so energizing about doing an act of kindness for someone you don't even know. Just knowing that someone's day will be made by your simple surprise really has a way of making you feel good, knowing that the joy comes not from their reaction but from the action itself. And if you've ever been the recipient of such a random act of kindness, you'll know what I mean! If you've never done a random act of kindness before, give it a try this year. Makes for a great "secret mission" with kids (and picturing the lucky recipient's reaction is so much fun and a great exercise for the imagination!) Have fun with it!
Start regular, monthly charitable donations
Although I've always prioritize charitable giving, it was only last year that I started to set up regular, monthly donations. I used to like the ability to allocate my charitable contributions amongst various charities, and spreading my donations throughout the year. But, having worked at a charity and knowing many people in the charitable space, I know that the regular monthly donations are often actually most valued by charities. With these ongoing commitments and predictable cash flow, the organizations are better able to plan and do financial forecasts and project commitments. Plus, as a busy parent, I also love the monthly withdrawals and donations being automated so that I don't have another to-do on my list. It's a win win!
Take an easy step to decrease waste and plastics
Like all things kindness, my favourite approach is to take small steps to make change. And any small step to reduce waste is a positive step, especially when we all take these steps together. Last year, one of my favourite changes that we made in my household was to buy reusable silicon straws that the kids love - everyone gets their favourite colour, we always have them on hand, and we definitely reduced some single-use waste in our house. This year, I'm looking to do the same - take some easy and small steps to make our lives a bit more green. On my radar this year - using less single-use produce bags at the grocery story (by bringing my own or putting things loose in the cart) and investing in some reusable beeswax food wrap. Work with your kids to decide what small steps work for you and your household to move the needle on waste.
Be kind to yourself
This should be at the top of everyone's New Year's to do list. You've spent the month of December teaching your kids about kindness and role modelling for them how it looks to be kind to their peers, their community, their environment. Don't forget to teach them to be kind to themselves. And the best way to do this - be kind to yourself too! Do something just for you. Whether it's every day, every week, or every month, do what works for you. Let go of the "mom guilt" or any other useless emotions that naturally come up when we're trying to be everything to everyone, and sometimes fall short. We're doing our best every day, and that's what matters. Remember you are amazing and deserve to be treated with kindness by others and from within. I'll be honest, this is one for me that sometimes falls to the bottom of the list but I'm going to make sure that I remember in 2019 to take some "me time". Maybe a visit to the gym (for the first time in a LONG time) or maybe an afternoon at the movies without kids (also a rare occasion). Just putting it into writing feels good as a first step!