The other day, my friend Lisa posted a comment on my post Volunteering as a Path to Greater Happiness.
Here’s how it reads:
I’ve learned a lot from your blog, and one thing I learned was that making changes doesn’t have to be time consuming. In your marriage month, one of your resolutions was to greet your husband with a big hug after work. This means a lot, but doesn’t really add more to your to-do list, right? Maybe, at this busy point in both of our lives, with young children at home, volunteering can be approached with the same attitude. What kind of volunteering can you do that doesn’t add more to your already busy day? I’m writing this comment as much to focus myself on this task as to give you new ideas. I’m thinking of very small, random acts of kindness to friends and neighbors, instead of cooking a whole meal for someone or teaching Sunday school.
I thought this was an awesome plan. And I loved reading the perspective of someone outside of my brain writing about my project. I mean, I’d never made the connection that the things that were working for me were all fairly simple, but I absolutely agree with her.
A very recent example: I began a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class this past Monday. I didn’t enjoy the class, but I will be continuing with it for the full eight weeks, provided we’re still here for the whole thing (more on the dislike-but-sticking-with-it decision in a later post). It did, however, jump-start me back into the habit of mindfulness. All week I’ve felt more clarity and confidence, and I’ve been much less judgmental of myself and others. This isn’t really a surprise given my positive results from Mindfulness Month. What’s surprising is that I forgot about the enormous payoff from something as simple as awareness without judgment.
So, I’m going to revise my resolutions a tad. I’m going to leave the one to participate in two one-time volunteer projects, but I’m going to increase the odds of improving my happiness and getting myself into a “service” frame of mind by adding a “random acts of kindness” resolution.
Effective immediately, my plan is simply to spend each day on the lookout for small things to do to help other people around me, be they friends or strangers—or even family. I realize I do a lot of kind things for my family, but those kindnesses are not often random. They’re more in the “basic upkeep” category and too often I feel resentful while I’m doing them, which I think defies the spirit of the resolution. The shift I hope to see is towards care and kindness rather than responsibility and resentment.
I’ll let you know in a few days how this change is going.