5 Ways to Develop Kindness and Generosity

By noting some simple everyday cues we can strengthen the muscle of kindness and generosity.


1. Pause at the stop sign

Every time you come to a stop sign or a red light, take a full breath, notice how you are feeling and then wish yourself or another well. “May I be happy and safe. May I live with ease.” Continue saying the words or phrases internally until you are ready to move on or the light changes. When you come to the next stop sign or red light, repeat the practice. With sufficient repetition the stop sign and the red light become cues for cultivating kindness and help establish a habit of kindness.

2. Engage the grocery clerk

When you shop at a grocery store, stand in line for a movie ticket, or get a tank of gas at a full-service station, engage with other people. Internally, extend wishes of goodwill to them. Listen when they talk and gently smile. Such small gestures make people feel more open and kind. By engaging with them, you engage with your best self.

3. Extend to your fellow travelers

If you use the bus, train, or airplane on a regular basis, let the act of taking your seat be a cue to practice kindness or compassion toward your traveling companions. Bring all those traveling with you into your awareness and reflect on how they, like you, have their share of joys and sorrows and want to be happy, peaceful, and free from suffering. Express your wish for their happiness. “May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be free from harm. May you live with ease.”

4. Listen for the ping

We get tons of emails and calendar alerts every day. Use them as reminders to be mindful. On many computers, you can even set the sound to be that of a meditation chime. Every time you hear the alert or see the reminder, pause, take a breath or two, and send yourself thoughts of kindness. You can do the same in the shower. Simply feel the water on your body, pause, take a deep breath, and send yourself and others thoughts of kindness.

5. Connect with someone in need

Establish the intention in your mind to respond with kindness and generosity whenever you meet someone on the street who asks for support. Pause to make contact with him or her and ask how they’re doing and give some money if you like. Or if you believe it is more helpful to give funds to a group that supports the homeless, commit to writing a check at the end of the week or month.

This article also appeared in the February 2015 issue of Mindful magazine.