I’ve always been a fan of random acts of kindness.
And by that, I mean that I enjoy reading about other people who do nice things with no ulterior motive.
On the rare occasions that I’ve done that myself, I’ve felt pretty good about it. Then I’ve gone on living my life in my usual self-centered way.
So I was fascinated to read “A Year of Living Kindly,” a new book by Donna Cameron, of Brier. The book was written after a full year — 365 days in 2015 — in which Cameron tried to live her life in a deliberately kind fashion. And during that year she decided to blog about it to ensure that she didn’t give up on her plan.
“The result was that kindness was on my mind all the time,” Cameron said. “And it stayed there.”
Cameron suggests that society in general is becoming less kind, less civil.
We’ve certainly seen it in politics. But Cameron notes that social media, especially, is filled with unkind thoughts and comments — especially from people who post anonymously.
“People are nastier in many ways,” she said. “For the last 15 or 20 years, I have often thought I could be a kinder person.”
Those thoughts spawned the year-long blog, which Cameron is still writing. The book idea came toward the end of 2015, when Cameron was trying to figure out what to do next in her life.
The book isn’t a compilation of her 2015 blog posts. While the book includes a lot of things that Cameron learned during her kind year, it’s more of a workbook for people who would like to live a kinder life.
“It’s what I would have liked to have during my year,” Cameron said. “Kindness takes practice.”
The book, released Sept. 25, consists of 52 short chapters. But they are not intended to be read at a weekly pace or at any other pace. Each chapter ends with a “Kindness in Action” segment intended to encourage kinder thoughts and actions.
For example, after a chapter suggesting that no kindness is too small, the action step asks you to take a day and record the number of times you’ve performed small acts that were both kind and unkind. Then, during the next week, you’re directed to try to increase daily acts of kindness and decrease unkind acts.
Cameron said she hopes the action steps will help readers “customize” the book so that it’s more relevant to their daily lives.
So what is kindness?
Cameron said it can be as easy as opening the door for someone, or as difficult as confronting a bully in the workplace. But even acts of kindness involving difficult people usually have tangible benefits, she said.
It can make for a better day, a better workplace and even a better world, she said.
“Kindness is contagious,” she added. “You just don’t know how far it will ripple out.”
Kindness can also offer health benefits, Cameron said, noting studies have shown that it lowers blood pressure, for example.
“Personally, I can attest to increased happiness and a reduction in stress,” Cameron said, adding that she’s also more comfortable at business or social events.
Cameron said her personal efforts to become kinder have engaged her more deeply with people and the world around her.
For Cameron, becoming kinder is a deliberate process, one taken a step at a time until acts of kindness become more automatic. She suggests people pause and think about their actions and engage with others to understand them better.
Cameron said that after her year of trying to be kinder, she is better at recognizing kind and unkind acts and has continued to make kindness an important part of her life.
“I’m in the habit now, and it’s become more prominent in my life,” she said. “Kindness is not just something you do for a year, and then move on to playing the clarinet.”
If you go
What: Donna Cameron: “A Year of Living Kindly”
Where: Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way NE, Lake Forest Park
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 10
More: 206-366-3333 orwww.thirdplacebooks.com
About the author
Donna Cameron worked in the nonprofit industry for several decades, where she witnessed the benefits of kindness, helping her to commit to being a kinder person. She recently sold her business, which provided management services for nonprofits, and works as a writer and consultant. Learn more about her at www.ayearoflivingkindly.com.
“A Year of Living Kindly”
By Donna Cameron
She Writes Press. 256 pages. $16.95.
Washington North Coast Magazine
This article is featured in the fall issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.