Tumultuous Times: 5 Strategies for Kindness
Toward Others and Ourselves
During these tumultuous times, many of us recognize the need to be kind to ourselves and others.
Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, MD, is credited with inviting us to consider that in any situation we have the power to choose our response no matter how difficult the circumstance. The response we choose contributes to our potential for learning, growth, happiness, and making a positive difference in the world.
What choices are you making to support yourself and others during these tumultuous times? Here are a few options to consider as you navigate your inner “politics” of self-care, kindness, and choices.
Strategy 1: Add more micro-moments of love and kindness into your days. Even brief moments of connection between two people can positively impact the body and the brain. According to research psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, PhD sharing positive emotions between yourself and another person can impact biochemistry and behaviors, improving well-being and what she terms “positivity resonance” (Fredrickson, 2013). For example, you can increase your sense of emotional well-being by taking a moment to chat with a neighbor, calling a friend or family member, letting someone in front of you in line at the grocery store (at safe social distance), or bringing groceries to a friend who can’t get to the store.
Strategy 2: Motivational psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD (2012) reminds us to focus on what we will do, rather than what we won’t do. If you find yourself getting overly upset about current events, you might notice that trying not to think about something may actually make you think about it more. Rather, it can be helpful to create an if-then plan, identifying what you will do instead (Oettingen, 2010 ; Halvorson, 2012). “If I find that I am dwelling on health or political news more than I want to, I will go outside and walk briskly for 20 minutes.” “If I feel isolated, I will reach out to others by phone or donating groceries to a food pantry.”
Strategy 3: Try a simple, yet powerful, practice called metta, more popularly called loving-kindness or compassion meditation. This mindfulness strategy helps you create greater compassion and well-being toward yourself and others. Metta has been studied empirically – one study found that 7 minutes of loving kindness meditation temporarily boosted positive feelings and the experience of social connection (Hutchinson, 2008; Goleman & Davidson, 2017).
Lovingkindness practice can help us open our hearts by expressing goodwill first to ourselves and then toward others in our own spheres and beyond. Typically practiced with slow in-and-out breaths, a few simple, yet powerful phrases are repeated silently. Here are some examples: “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.” The phrases offer compassion for yourself and then, if you choose to do so, they can be extended with compassion toward others you know, those you don’t know, your neighborhood, local and national leaders, your entire country, or even all human beings everywhere (Salzburg, 2014). “May all beings feel safe. May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be at ease.”
Strategy 4: Take a look at the 5-Step Personal Discernment Process I offered in the January 2020 Flourishing newsletter to help you navigate through your current challenges toward your next steps on life’s path. The five steps include:
- Pause: Mindfully notice your breathing.
- Listen: Tune into your inner voice – the still, small voice that guides you. Listen to messages from your mind, body, and spirit.
- Reflect: Notice and identify your feelings and reactions.
- Discern: Where do you feel called? Sift through your awareness and intuitive wisdom along with realities, possibilities, and choices. What additional information do you need?
- Act: What direction do you want to go toward? What’s the next right thing? Mindfully choose your next steps.
Strategy 5: If you’d like to work with a coach to help you tap into your strengths, callings, and potential during these uncertain times, feel free to email me for a free coaching consultation.
I share my 5-step Discernment Process in individual coaching, keynotes, webinars, and workshops. If you’re ready for a positive shift in your life or work, or interested in exploring this 5-step discernment process further in your company or organization, please contact me.
While these strategies will not change the external events confronting you, they may help you navigate your self-care, enhancing your capacity to show up, make choices, and take action, while honoring, caring for, and paying attention to your inner compass.
Notice you are breathing.
May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy.
May you live with ease.
- Frankl, V. (1959). Man’s search for meaning. New York, NY: Washington Square Press.
- Fredrickson, B.L. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.
- Goleman D. & Davidson, R.J. (2017). Altered traits: Science reveals how meditation changes your mind, brain, and body. New York, NY: Avery.
- Halvorson, H.G. (2012). 9 things successful people do differently. Boston MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
- Hutchinson, C.A. et al (2008). Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion, 8(5), 700-724.
- Oettingen, G. & Gollwitzer, P.M. (2010). Strategies of setting and implementing goals: Mental contrasting and implementation intention. In J.E. Maddux & J.P. Tangney (Eds.). Social psychological foundations of clinical psychology (114-136). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
- Salzburg, S. (2010). The force of kindness: Change your life with love & compassion. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
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