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J. Kate Franklin Headshot

Simple Kindness

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Lately, I feel like I've become a sort of sentimental anthropologist, and what fascinates me now are the little everyday, small kindnesses -- the positive emotional connective tissue in our lives. So often we are consumed by the big defining moments, good and bad, that we can forget to stop and realize how painfully impactful the minutia of our daily lives can be.

Without the crushing distraction of vehemently working towards something I grew to hate (because that's what smart college-educated big city 20-somethings do), I've been left with a hole that is now being filled with an almost Technicolor experience of things -- and perhaps yes, leaving me even more romantically inquisitive.

I can't stand in line to order my coffee at Starbucks without overhearing the short-tempered, irritated tone of voice from some girl snapping at her inattentive boyfriend, distractedly texting away on his iPhone, and help but feel so deflated for them. There's no way for me to determine whether she's justified in her annoyance -- but what I do know is the lack of effort and passion in this simple interaction speaks volumes. We don't all the sudden become who we are -- we are human creatures of habit.

This couple most likely interacts like this on a regular basis and has boiled their relationship to generic apathy. She has no concern about the way she's emasculating him, and he has no concern about dismissing her. If she took half as much effort to gently touch his arm when asking him what he'd like to order and he'd replied by adding "thanks babe" after telling her "caramel macchiato please," you'd have two very different people in that relationship and even in life.

I can't go to yoga and hear the collective exhale of the people in the room without being moved to tears. When did we become a society of people who need permission to do something that's automatic for us? We breathe in and out without thinking about it but don't focus on the release until we're communally dressed in cool-colored spandex, all bendy and smelling like jasmine. What would happen if we were kind enough to ourselves to "let go" like that all day, every day? We'd be much happier people I think.

I can't get through a conversation with a close group of friends and help but realize our problems, fears and concerns are all exactly the same -- they just have different names, weights and birthdays. So-and-so is going on and on about situation x, and all I can think about is how I want to tell her love will find her one day -- she just has to believe. So-and-so is going on and on and about situation y, and all I want to tell her is, I know she's just scared. So and so is freaking out about situation z, and I just want to tell him, he'll be okay too.

They're worried about the big moments, situations x, y and z, and all I can think about is their underlying daily mantra to themselves, the stories they tell themselves about being scared and unloved and confused and over analytical.

More than anything else, I want to tell these friends (and myself) to simply be kind to himself or herself and to everyone else. Yes, at all costs, be friendly, generous, and considerate to the people themselves as well as the experiences and emotions housed within them.

When we approach everything with kindness, it all gets a little easier to bear -- the good, the bad and ugly. In being kind to yourself and others:

Don't yell at anyone -- it becomes his or her inner monologue.

Don't ever ignore anyone -- you're more important to them then you'll ever know.

Hug the people you love as much as you can. They may not be touched as often as you think.

Check in just because. Knowing you're on someone's mind is one of the best feelings.

Smile at strangers. You'll make someone's day.

Take a nap in the sun. Nature has a soundtrack if you listen carefully enough.

Cook -- for yourself and for others. Preparing a home-cooked meal is edible love.

Read and recommend books. You're enriching someone's life.

Use terms of endearment. Fight against our desensitization to the vulgar and crude.

Don't be afraid to reveal yourself to someone. You give them permission to do the same.

Pay it forward. Help just because you can.

Laugh at yourself. Have you looked in a mirror? You're pretty weird and pretty fucking cool.

Don't confuse being opinionated with being a shithead wolf in sheep's clothing. Not everyone finds it necessary for you to express your "outspoken nature" all the time. In fact, it's quite predictable and rather boring. Instead, try being challenged by someone else's point of view, and just being ok with it.

Accept or decline an invitation at the time you're asked. We're all better than "not sure yet." Always.

Do you know the shade of brown of your boyfriend or girlfriend's eyes are? Get off your phone, go check, and let them know you care.

Share and explore. Think about somewhere you've always wanted to visit. Invite someone else along. And don't pin it to Pinterest -- book a flight.

If I'm scared, and you're scared, let's be scared together.

Don't spend so much time trying to protect yourself and beating yourself up about it. No one gets out of life alive.

A simple kindness to yourself and to others is more profound than you know.

"Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates great fondness. Kindness in giving creates love." -- Lao Tzu

"Ask yourself have you been kind today? Make kindness your modus operandi and change your world." -- Annie Lennox

"Kindness is the golden key that unlocks the hearts of others." -- Henry Drummond

"A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make new trees." -- Amelia Earhart

For more by J. Kate Franklin, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

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