Wednesday, November 13, 2019

World Kindness Day
Today is World Kindness Day.

In other news, the impeachment hearings began in Washington, D.C.

Those who know me know I have a very definite opinion about the hearings and about this presidency in general, but this post is not about that. Instead, it's about how much we need World Kindness Day today.

This morning, I introduced a new book in my first year seminar -- the last book we'll be reading this semester. Ironically, the book I introduced on World Kindness Day was Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. As part of this morning's discussion, I shared what research has found about how much control we actually have over our our own happiness. According to studies, our genes make about a 50% contribution to our happiness while our circumstances contribute about 10%.

The rest -- 40% -- is on us, meaning that we are, to a significant extent, about as happy as we make up our minds to be.

Does this mean that those suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues merely need to cheer up? No, of course not. And, to suggest as much would be anywhere from woefully misinformed to downright cruel.

But it does mean that, even when circumstances beyond our control make us unhappy, we can choose to take charge of our own little corner of the world in big ways and small ones. We can step out of our preoccupation to look up and around us to see the beauty of the colors in the fall canopy. We can revel in good news, despite the bad, celebrate our blessings and make our favorite meal for dinner to try to salvage a bad day.

Most important, we can be kind. We can smile at the barista who makes our drink, yield to another driver in traffic, make a donation to a charity that matters to us. We can take ten minutes to meditate, twenty minutes for a quick nap or thirty minutes to immerse ourselves in a good book.

Last night, it turned cold where I live, temperatures dropping close to 40 degrees from morning until bedtime. Whether it's the world or the temperatures that are cold, kindness -- whether toward ourselves, others, or both -- can make the world seem a little warmer.

There are a wide variety of things over which we have little to no control. Some matter a lot, others hardly at all. But we can choose to be kind. Doing so takes very little time, yet it is perhaps the best investment in happiness -- ours and other people's -- that we can make.

Happy World Kindness Day. Spread joy.

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