Want to change your life – and maybe the world? It begins with choosing kindness, claims Donna Cameron, author of “A Year of Living Kindly”ed to explore and create by “Dr. Brainchild & Radar: A Popcorn Discovery”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEATTLE, Washington – It’s all too easy to be unkind. A telemarketer calls and interrupts dinner. A driver cuts you off in traffic. The repairman is running late. Depending on your mood, your reaction might be an abrupt hang up, a waved fist, an angry Yelp review. We’ve all done it. But we can choose a different response.
After spending more than 30 years working with nonprofit organizations, where she saw kindness in action daily, author Donna Cameron was inspired by its potential to change the world. Releasing on Sept. 25, 2018, by She Writes Press, “A Year of Living Kindly” explores what it means to lead a kind life and illustrates both the challenges and the benefits, providing readers with thought-provoking questions and practical actions throughout the book. She explores both the why and the how of choosing kindness.
What sets Cameron apart from other personal development authors is that she does not claim to be a paragon of kindness; she has struggled with all the issues that other people have – lack of time, obliviousness, impatience, fear – she’s human, after all, and has learned that we all have lapses, but with practice and intention, kindness can become our default setting. And when that happens, the world changes for us.
“Many people perceive kindness as a weakness, or as something soft and insubstantial,” Cameron says. “The truth is that kindness is a strength – a superpower. It takes courage, trust and confidence to be kind and to face unkindness or incivility without succumbing to it.”
Cameron encourages readers to commit to kindness. She not only explains the importance of kindness and why it is good for you, but she also explains the difficulties and barriers we face in extending and receiving kindness, as well as the skills we can cultivate to grow and spread kindness. Kindness, in the end, is a muscle we must strengthen to bring peace and happiness into our lives, and to our world. And Cameron’s book provides the welcome exercise to strengthen that muscle.
About the book
A YEAR OF LIVING KINDLY
Choices That Will Change Your Life and the World Around You
Donna Cameron | September 25, 2018 | She Writes Press
Print ISBN: 978-1-63152-479-0 | $16.95
E-book ISBN: 978-1-63152-480-6 | $9.95
Most of us aspire to be kind. But being kind isn’t always easy. Our best intentions often fade when the realities of daily life intrude: traffic, telemarketers, crowded spaces, time constraints, and our own ineptness. Being kind when we don’t feel like it, or when all of our buttons are being pushed, is hard. But that’s also when it’s most needed.
In these pages you’ll see how a commitment to kindness will improve your life in countless ways, and ultimately can be world-changing. You’ll discover:
* Why choosing kindness is good for you
* Why extending and receiving kindness is often difficult
* What the barriers are to kindness and how to overcome them
* What to do when you’re faced with unkindness and incivility
* How kindness is a strength that will bring you peace and happiness
Want to change your life and also change the world? It begins with choosing kindness.
DONNA CAMERON is the author of “A Year of Living Kindly.” She has spent her career working with nonprofit organizations and causes as an executive, consultant, trainer, and volunteer. She has seen kindness in action and been awed by its power to transform. While she considered herself a reasonably nice person (with occasional lapses into bitchiness), she knew that true kindness was a step above. When she committed to a year of living kindly, she learned that it takes practice, patience, and understanding…and a sense of humor helps, too. The recipient of multiple awards, Cameron has also published numerous articles and, in 2011, coauthored “One Hill, Many Voices: Stories of Hope and Healing” with Kristen Leathers. Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Cameron and her husband now live in a suburb of Seattle.
Praise for “A Year of Living Kindly”
“A Year of Living Kindly is a beautifully rendered exploration of kindness as a way of life, arriving at the right moment, with the right guide. Donna Cameron writes with humor and grace about this essential virtue. She makes it easy to follow her path–and to want to follow it.” – Sarah L. Kaufman, author of The Art of Grace and Pulitzer Prize-winning critic of The Washington Post
“Donna Cameron’s contagious warmth, compelling stories, persuasive logic, and useful advice make this gem a joy to read. After I finished each lovely little chapter, I understood the path to kindness a bit better, my inspiration to keep moving down that path increased, and my resolve to forgive myself and others when we slip into unkindness grew stronger.” – Robert Sutton, Stanford Professor and bestselling author of The No Asshole Rule and The Asshole Survival Guide
“This book will absolutely light your heart on fire for kindness! In A Year of Living Kindly, Donna Cameron encourages us to suspend our spectator status and fully embrace what’s happening around us. Through collected research and her own wise observations, she generously shows us how to lead fuller lives through kindness.” – Nicole J Phillips, author of Kindness is Contagious and host of The Kindness Podcast
“It’s irrefutable that being kind—on purpose—improves health and wellness. With fifty-two delicious, bite-sized chapters containing actionable examples that help readers weave intentional kindness into their daily lives, you can be sure A Year of Living Kindly is a book I’ll prescribe to my clients.” – Laurie Buchanan, PhD, holistic health practitioner, life coach, and author of The Business of Being and Note to Self
“Although being kind sounds a lot like being nice, Donna Cameron shares how these two acts are very different. A Year of Living Kindly has remarkable insights on how you can increase your dose of happiness by adding kindness into your daily encounters. In most situations, it doesn’t cost a dime and yet you will feel better than ever. I’ve been inspired!” – Linda Atwell, author of Loving Lindsey: Raising a Daughter with Special Needs
“Most people are kind, but don’t always know how to express it. In A Year of Living Kindly, Donna Cameron shares both the whyand how of kindness. She’s written a wise, captivating guide for those wishing to claim the power of kindness and use it to change the world.” – Leon Logothetis, Bestselling author of The Kindness Diaries
An Interview With Donna Cameron
What inspired your journey to live kindly? What was your first step?
I’ve always admired kind people, and I wanted to be like them. For many years, I would set an intention of being kind, or being kinder. But the resolution faded in the face of rudeness or inconvenience. I was kind mostly when it was easy or convenient. At the end of 2014, still hearing the call of kindness, I decided to hold my feet to the fire. I thought if I made the goal more public and blogged about it to a few friends who might want to follow, it would be harder for me to let the commitment fade when it got hard. There’d be some built-in accountability. So, I declared 2015 my “year of living kindly” and blogged about it. The result was that kindness was on my radar all the time. And it has stayed there.
How has your life changed as a result of your year of kindness?
I am a kinder person. I’m certainly no paragon, but I’m kinder. I’m more willing and able to go out of my way to extend kindness. Throughout each day I actively look for ways to express or encourage kindness. At the end of 2015, I knew that my year of living kindly wasn’t just something I would do for 12 months and then move on to the next thing—it’s the path I’m walking for the rest of my life. And I’m better able to use the kindness skills I’ve learned and developed. Plus, I feel more engaged with the world. I’m paying attention to my life and the life around me. I feel more open-hearted.
Why does kindness matter?
I think few of us would dispute the fact that over the last couple of years, we’ve seen an enormous worldwide increase in unkindness and incivility. We see it on social media, on our highways, at political rallies, and in the way people talk to and about one another. Quite literally, we are in the midst of an epidemic of incivility. Science has shown that incivility spreads like a virus, but it’s also shown that kindness is equally contagious. So, each of us has a choice: We can choose to widen an epidemic of incivility or foster one of kindness. If enough of us choose to come down on the side of kindness, eventually it will become our “default” setting in our interactions with one another. When that happens, we’ve changed the world.
What’s the difference between being nice and being kind?
Nice doesn’t ask too much of us. It isn’t all that hard to be nice. It’s benign. Passive. Safe. One can be nice without expending a lot of energy or investing too much of oneself. One can be nice without taking risks. Being kind—truly kind—is hard. Being kind means genuine caring. It means making an effort. It means thinking about the impact I’m having in an interaction with someone and endeavoring to give them what they need at that exact moment, without worrying about whether I get anything in return. It means more than just tolerating other people, but letting go of judgments and accepting people as they are. Kindness requires me to do something my upbringing discouraged—it demands that I reach out and take a risk, knowing that I might be rebuffed or rejected. If I were asked to sum it up in two words, I’d say that kindness means “extending yourself.”
What’s the biggest misconception about kindness?
I’ve seen time and again that a lot of people perceive the notion of kindness as weak and bland and insubstantial. They see it as a pleasant but powerless quality. For some, it may even be viewed as a weakness to be exploited or taken advantage of. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My experience and research have convinced me that kindness is really a super-power. It takes strength and courage. It means putting yourself out there—sometimes in ways that may be uncomfortable, awkward, and may even seem dangerous.
Is there a difference between kindness and generosity?
I think a lot of us think of kindness first as giving—perhaps money, perhaps time. But if neither time nor money are available to us, we can still be kind in so many ways:
* We can load the dishwasher even if they aren’t our dirty dishes.
* We can make eye-contact, smile, and say “good morning.”
* We can say “thank you” or “I’m sorry.”
* We can hold a door or offer help in carrying a heavy load.
* We can let the car merge in front of us.
* We can say something nice about an absent friend when others are gossiping about her.
* We can give the benefit of the doubt
I think a big way to express kindness is to listen for the music rather than the missed note. To not be one of those people—we all know them—who spend their time looking for the typo, catching others’ errors, and playing “gotcha” with life. Instead, we can practice looking for what’s right and letting go of the rest.
Who is the kindest person you know?
I have been blessed to know so many kind people in my life, and to be the beneficiary of so much kindness. When I think of kindness, my business partner, Lynn Melby, comes to mind. In addition to being my mentor as I entered and grew in the non-profit world, Lynn was—and is—an encourager to everyone he meets. And he treats everyone the same, whether it’s a senator, a CEO, or the janitor. There’s an old saying that “a person who’s kind to you but unkind to the waiter is not a kind person.” Lynn is kind to everyone, and he inspires others to be kind.
Are there health benefits to living a more kind life? Have you noticed any personally?
There’s been a lot of research into the health benefits of kindness, and there are indeed many. Kindness produces in us the hormone, Oxytocin, which lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation, fights heart disease, and slows aging. Kindness has also been shown to reduce chronic pain, extend longevity, increase happiness, and reduce depression. And for people who may be debilitatingly shy, kindness has also been proven to alleviate social anxiety. Personally, I can attest to increased happiness and a reduction in stress. And while I’m not debilitatingly shy, I have never been comfortable in crowded social gatherings. Focusing on kindness has increased my comfort and enjoyment in the dreaded business reception or cocktail party.
You worked in the nonprofit sector for years, how can the messages in your book apply to organizations and businesses?
Just as there’s been a lot of research on kindness and health, there’s also been considerable research on kindness in the business world. Whether a nonprofit organization, a Fortune 500 corporation, or a small business, there are certain elements that are essential to success. Organizations with kind cultures have far less turnover; they are more productive and more profitable; they have better performance, better customer service, better health and lower absenteeism among employees. Kind workplaces also have greater employee engagement and commitment, and an atmosphere where learning, collaboration and innovation are more likely to flourish. The bottom line is that in business, kindness is your competitive advantage.
What are some everyday actions people can take to embrace kindness?
There are a lot of tools we can cultivate. I sometimes think of them as tools in our kindness toolbox, or apps we download into our brains.
One of the biggest is just learning to pause before we respond. Another is letting go of judgment and engaging our curiosity to look for what might be behind unkindness. Paying attention is another huge one. So often, we operate on automatic pilot, oblivious to what’s happening around us and oblivious to opportunities to extend kindness or experience kindness. Being able to accept kindness is as important as being able to extend kindness. Some of us are terrible at receiving from others. We need to remind ourselves that accepting the kindness of others is a gift to the giver. Sometimes, even engaging in self-care is an act of kindness. If we’re depleted, we won’t have energy or interest in helping others. As simple as it sounds, we can remind ourselves that we can always choose peace. All of these things are simple, but they aren’t necessarily easy. They take practice and they take awareness.
I would caution, though, that declaring one is going to turn over a new leaf and be as kind as the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa is probably not practical. Start small. Say that you’re going to be ten percent kinder for the next week, and when you see how good that makes you feel, add another ten percent.
What are the biggest struggles people face with displaying kindness?
Many things can get in the way of our kindness. Fear’s a big one: fear of embarrassment, rejection, being viewed as “weak,” fear of doing it wrong, of being vulnerable or different. Other barriers include uncertainty, obliviousness, thinking we don’t have the time, maybe even the perception that kindness doesn’t matter. The good news is that it gets easier with practice, and with the awareness of just how much difference it can make in our lives and in the world.
Why did you decide to continue exploring kindness after your “year of living kindly” was over?
It became evident to me before my year was even half over that kindness isn’t something I could “do” for a year and then move on to the next thing—a year of playing the clarinet or learning Italian. Kindness is a way of life, a path—for me, at least. It’s how I want to be and who I want to be. It has made me happier and enhanced my life in countless ways. It’s what I have to offer the world. If, after I die, someone says of me, “She was a kind person,” then my life will have been well-lived.
Is it still ok to be angry or to have negative reactions?
I don’t think we want to deny our feelings or reactions. It’s what we do with those feelings that defines us. One of the keys is not to let someone else’s incivility trigger the same behavior in us. Just because someone else is behaving like a jerk, it doesn’t mean we have to. That takes strength and practice. It also takes self-control and courage—these aren’t qualities that we can simply switch on at will. We develop all of these with practice, awareness and intention.
You discuss something in your book that you call “micro-kindness.” What is that?
I think some of us bypass opportunities to extend kindness because we think they’re just too puny. Kindness should be big and impressive. While there’s nothing wrong with grand gestures, a kind life is composed of countless, ordinary, day-to-day kindnesses that may seem small but really aren’t. A micro-kindness might be a smile, a word of appreciation, an offer of assistance, or the genuine interest we have for the people in our lives. None of these actions is grand or earth-moving, but cumulatively they change moods, change lives, and maybe even can change the world. Our days are filled with these micro-kindnesses and also with micro-unkindnesses. We have a choice.
How do you manage situations in which people are being unnecessarily unkind? How do you shift your perspective?
There are degrees of incivility and unkindness. How I respond to the guy who deliberately speeds up to block me from merging onto the highway is going to be very different from the person who I see bullying another person, or someone who makes hateful and bigoted remarks about an individual or a group of people.
In the case of the aggressive driver, I usually just shrug and feel sorry for the guy; maybe I’ll even make up a story for why he’s rushing and acting thoughtlessly.
In the case of bullying or bigotry, my goal is to stand up for the victim without resorting to the tactics of the bully. I don’t want to name call or make the person even more belligerent. If I see someone being talked to rudely in a store, an office, or on public transit, I might just go stand next to them and make it clear that they have my support.
Do you have any thoughts about all the unkindness and incivility we see online and on social media?
In a perfect world, the on-line community—whatever it may be—should establish norms and enforce them. And should say in no uncertain terms that bullying, name-calling, and trolling aren’t acceptable. Every time we click on something on the internet or on social media, we make a choice. It may seem like a small thing to click to some salacious celebrity gossip, or to some site that promises dirt on some bigwig. But those clicks matter—they determine what other people put out there. If there’s a market for mean, false, and crude content, more people will post it. If more of us stop clicking to that stuff, purveying it becomes less profitable.
It’s hard. We see a provocative headline and we almost automatically click on it. But if we pause and think about what we want to perpetuate, perhaps we’ll choose differently. Each of us has the power to change the unkindness being spread online and through social media by not clicking on it, and by posting kind comments when we have the opportunity. With every click, we make a choice.
What’s next for you?
I want to continue to write about kindness and to speak about kindness. I love connecting with other people who are choosing to walk a path of kindness. Perhaps there’s some opportunities for collaborating to bring kindness to our schools, our communities, our workplaces.
237 Old Hickory Blvd., Suite 201, Nashville, TN 37221