How to be kinder

Isn’t it ironic how often the best ideas come from difficult circumstances? Dissatisfied in a job in corporate marketing, Jono Fisher took a break from work to contemplate a vastly different change of direction. What followed was a stint as a ‘manny’ (a male nanny) to twin boys, who helped him realise that through a pared back, simple life and learning to become comfortable with who he was regardless of what he was doing, came calm and happiness.

Marrying this with a personal journey of learning wisdom traditions and meditation, Fisher realised that he could share what were now the foundations of his happiness: simplicity, compassion, kindness. So began, in 2009, what has now grown into a global movement: the Australian ‘Wake Up’ project which is now a community of 75,000+ people.

“I believe qualities like compassion, kindness and authenticity are no longer luxuries, but necessities for a flourishing and innovative society,” says Fisher. Simplicity is at the core of one of the practical ways the Wake Up project encourages kinder living with their ‘kindness cards’.

Then you can perform - preferably anonymous - acts of kindness and generosity. Pay for a coffee for the person next in queue and leave a kindness card to let them know this small act has been performed. The cards remind the receiver they can pass the spirit on. With these small steps, kindness grows. Currently the Wake Up project have posted out 250,000+ kindness cards.

Challenged by a particularly dour work colleague, one ‘kindness carder’ sent some flowers anonymously, with the kindness card attached. She then took great joy in watching her usually difficult colleague’s face light up. Her subsequent more joyful, patient and friendly behaviour had beneficial consequences across the office.

Fisher says these action has a profound effect on the giver and receiver. This is supported scientifically. Research carried out by the Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research at the Stanford  University Medical School, with whom the Wake Up project has a close association, has proven that acts of kindness and compassion beneficially affect well being by lowering heart rate and reducing stress.

With this in mind, Fisher believes that the first step toward a kinder world must start must start at home. “One of the big keys in unlocking compassion toward others is to be compassionate toward ourselves,”  he says.

Not a fan of ‘quick fixes’, he advocates that to really establish this heart opening peace in yourself and the broader world, practice is the key. From this grows habit, which turns into a way of life. Hey presto, a genuine path to happiness begins (or continues).

This idea is relevant to every aspect of our lives and everyone in it. From something as small as giving a nice smile to someone who looks like they need cheering up, offering to babysit to help out a a family member, or donating unwanted things which are simply decluttering your home, it all adds up.

The Wake Up project also hold events aimed at bringing the corporate world on board to create more mindful workplaces. While the benefits are felt by the employee, it also has a positive outcome for the business. With a more compassionate workplace, employee stress and burnout is reduced and creativity and problem solving improve. “Humans do well and have greater creativity when they are peaceful and have a purpose beyond making money,” says Fisher.

The Wake Up project now hold numerous events throughout the year, bringing together thought leaders, speakers, musicians from all walks of life. For more inspiration follow the wake up project blog.

Had anyone ever done anything kind for you anonymously? Have you got an idea about how you can help someone in need? Join our conversation below…