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April's 'My Mighty Month' Challenge Is Practicing Kindness

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At The Mighty, we frequently ask our communities to share their tips for coping on the tough days of their illness or disability. Recently, after posing that question to the chronic illness community, I realized there was one piece of advice at least one person suggested every time we asked for self-care tips: Being kind to others. Focusing on kindness “helps reset my brain to a more positive place,” one commenter explained. “Lifting others up always makes me feel better,” said another.

Thinking back, I could easily recall a time when doing something kind for someone else — as simple as letting a car change lanes in front of me during traffic or donating $10 to a friend’s Kickstarter — gave me a rush of joy on an otherwise difficult day. Feelings of pride in myself and gratitude that I could help someone else replaced, at least momentarily, my worries and anxiety.

Taking inspiration from the incredible members of our own Mighty community, April’s My Mighty Month challenge is focused on kindness. Every week, we’ll email a week’s worth of small acts of kindness you can do that will hopefully brighten your day or someone else’s. You can use our suggestions or come up with your own small acts of kindness. Our suggestions won’t require you to dip into your savings account, and in many cases, you won’t even have to leave your house. Rather, they’re quick, easy-to-accomplish tasks that can help show someone else (or yourself) some love. Of course, you’re more than welcome to come up with your own.

Science backs up the benefits of little acts of kindness, too. A study by the University of British Colombia monitored people with high social anxiety and found their fears were (at least partially) alleviated after they did small acts of kindness for other people. Their happiness levels increased as well. Research published in Clinical Psychological Science in 2015 found that participants who performed more “prosocial behaviors,” like holding the door open for someone, rated their mental health more positively, even on days they also reported high levels of stress.

The effects of being kind can go beyond your mood — and it doesn’t necessarily take long to see the results. A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology randomly assigned participants to perform acts of kindness, doing something new every day or no acts every day for 10 days. After the 10 days, the participants who had performed acts of kindness or novelty were found to have increased life satisfaction — suggesting that performing acts of kindness for just a few days could have the power to transform your outlook.

When you’re feeling frustrated and defeated by health challenges, your first instinct may not be to try and give someone else a boost. I say this as the queen of angrily sitting on the couch in front of a “Real Housewives” marathon at the end of a frustrating day, stubbornly stewing in my own thoughts. It can be tough to even think of a way to make someone else happy in those moments, and that’s completely understandable! But I know I never regret the moments I do. Practicing kindness is just that — a practice that can hopefully help us be kinder and happier with ourselves, too.

Want to make April a Mighty Month? Join us on Facebook at My Mighty Month, and don’t forget to tag any social media posts with #MyMightyMonth. You can also sign up for our weekly email, (select “Mighty Monthly Challenges” from the newsletter options), and we’ll send you weekly emails with suggestions for small acts of kindness. Don’t need any suggestions? That works too. Simply download our monthly habit tracker to keep track of your progress.

Originally published: March 27, 2017
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