WORDS Ria Wolstenholme

ILLUSTRATION Russ Atkinson

Welcoming in the New Year can be exceedingly daunting for many. The pressure to celebrate, the overly positive ‘new year, new start’ posts saturating your news feed, and the weird sense of duty to come up with a new year’s resolution that coins a grand gesture of change. It can all just feel like too much to handle.

Our resolutions always seem to stem from bettering our own lives, and ours alone. Now isn’t that incredibly selfish? Granted, I do believe that being selfish is good in moderation, I’ve said it before. But wouldn’t it be better if, instead of vowing to join your local gym, we vowed to make a real change? Not just in yourself, but in the world.

I think we can all agree that last year was pretty bad. In the sense of global politics, natural and planned disasters, and loss, it was awful. The bombings; the shootings; the attacks on humanity. It made us all question where we went wrong. Why so much evil exists in our world; a world that we have all made.

We witnessed and shared so much hurt with people who are nothing but strangers. Refugees fleeing their homes, and being shunned for seeking shelter. Families of victims whose lives were taken through senseless violence. Children living in war torn countries, where sleeping safe and sound is but a pipe dream. We all mourned and grieved for so many. But what are words without actions? Meaningless.

When the world seems to be falling at it’s knees around you, it’s hard to believe that anything you do could possibly help. “But what difference will I make?” is something we all ask when someone tells us we can be the change. The change that offers a new lease of life to the cause, the change that takes a small idea and turns it into a global phenomenon. Every small act can add up to something huge. Something bigger than you could have ever imagined possible.

People forget that simple, small actions can make the biggest impact. They leave the largest mark, and can create the greatest change.

So, with this in mind, I offer you a new resolution for this new year. To simply be kind. Kindness is defined as ‘the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate’. Being kind not only benefits you, but will benefit everyone around you. Your friends, family and even the strangers you meet along the way, can all be affected by a simple act of kindness. Help someone with their shopping bags, buy the next person in line their morning cup of coffee one day, or simply flash a smile at someone in the street.

We are taught when we are young to treat others how we wish to be treated. If you want to receive kindness and warmth from others, you must first give it out. What you put out into the world will surely come back to you. If you exude negativity, you’ll get it coming back to you in some way. Kindness is self-replicating. By showing it and sharing it, you inspire others to be kind too. A study conducted at Cambridge University found that witnessing someone else help another produced good feelings, which subsequently caused them to reach out and do something good and kind themselves.

Being kind to people can actually make you healthier too. Research conducted by Allen Luks, author of The Healing Power of Doing Good, found that those who volunteer or regularly help others are ten times more likely to be in good health than people who do not. Volunteering your time to others reduces the body’s stress, and releases endorphins. It makes you and your body happier.

What’s really important to remember, is that being kind does nothing but good. It can bring joy, comfort, safety and love to so many. And in turn, it can bring the same to you. You may not even know what impact it creates, or who it affects along the way. But you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your small act is the start of a chain reaction, both in yours and someone else’s life.

Make 2018 the year of putting some love and warmth back into the world. With so much out of our control, it’s easy to think that something so small as being kind could never have the kind of effect it needs. But you never know what your words or actions could end up achieving.