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Practicing Kindness: A Thoughtful Guide For the Times

As National Be Kind to Humankind Week approaches on August 25 to 31, we join in this annual celebration of kindness recognized globally, a time to reflect on what we can all do to make the world a better place. That includes practicing kindness every day to our fellow humans. We practice this every day with our hospice patients in San Francisco and elsewhere, ensuring each person in our care is treated with respect and kindness. During these times especially, we thought it would be nice to go over what kindness is and how you can practice being kind every single day.

Kindness Starts With Yourself

You will treat others in a more kind and gentle manner when you take good care of yourself. It all starts with YOU. Especially as a caregiver looking after a parent in-home care or hospice while managing your own family, it’s easy to work through lunch, and even dinner, trying to play catch-up with family only to start all over again the next day. Within a pressure-filled environment, it’s easy to get frazzled, frustrated, and burnt out. Often, though, when we take the time to breathe, assess what our needs are, and seek it out, we become kinder people in general, says Harvard Medical School. Whether that’s sleep, a relaxed meal, time out with friends, or a day to yourself, you deserve to take a moment to reflect on what makes you happy.

It’s important to be kind to yourself even when you misstep. Remember, it happens to everybody. Focusing on the negatives, calling out the mistake you have made, and dwelling on it causes collateral damage. It makes other people the target of the anger, disappointment, and frustration that we feel about ourselves. It may feel good in the moment to deflect those upsetting emotions away from ourselves and onto others. But it doesn’t last for long, as that’s when the regret and guilt set in.

So start with yourself. Forgive yourself, love yourself, and above all, be kind to yourself!

Leading with Compassion; Following With Kindness

Anyone around you could be going through some sort of challenge that you just don’t know about. That coworker who had the snarky comment to your question or that cashier who was short with your kids may just be having a bad day. Maybe a parent is dying or their child was diagnosed with an illness, or maybe they’re just having a tough time juggling life’s demands. If you knew these challenges, would you not cut them some slack, or even reach out to support them? Being compassionate means we recognize our shared human condition. Compassion guides us to perform acts of kindness. Kindness is offering to go pick up some coffee. Kindness is bringing back a cookie from your lunchtime errands just because. Kindness is a hug or an arm rub for a bed-bound senior in hospice. Sometimes the simple reassurance of touch can spell all the difference to someone who has been lacking meaningful physical contact.

It makes sense that we feel happier when we serve others with compassion and kindness. One study revealed how people feel after performing or even observing kind acts each day for seven days. Participants were asked to carry out a kind act for someone close to them, a stranger or an acquaintance, or to actively observe a kind act. Their happiness was assessed before and after the week of kindness. Researchers found that being kind to anyone, even a stranger, or observing kindness happening around us boosts happiness.

Kindness and the End of Life

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness damages the emotional soul and creates isolation, vulnerability, and fear that accompany the confrontation of the end of one’s life points out the National Institutes of Health. Many losses occur as a result, including the loss of the ability to work, the loss of familial roles, the loss of financial and social status, and even a perceived loss of human worth. In these situations, kindness can help ease the turmoil and despair that surround a terminal life event and help patients to cope with the prospect of a significantly altered and limited life expectancy.

There are many ways the hospice care team can display kindness in everyday situations. Kindness can be exhibited through thoughtful listening and by simply sitting in silence with the patient, even helping them explore spiritual frustrations, loss of hope, and questions of worth, value, and meaning. Family caregivers can extend that kindness by listening to life stories, giving a hug, looking through scrapbooks, reading a book together or watching a movie, enjoying a cup of coffee together, and just talking.

No one wants to feel less than. Kindness reaches as far as you will let it. Cast a wide net, practice kindness every day to those you love, and to those you don’t even know. It will come back to you 10 fold.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

To learn more about our compassionate hospice staff and witness our actions of kindness, we welcome you to call us at 888-978-1306.