Kindness is a Muscle: 3 Tips to Practice

By Aly Raisman, World Champion Gymnast

By Aly Raisman, World Champion Gymnast

You know that feeling when you try a new sport, or when a teacher pushes you harder than usual? At first, it can be so challenging. But with practice, over time it actually feels natural.  I have found the same is true with kindness.

My parents taught me from a very early age that being a good person was more important than winning. They were just as proud of me whether I got first, fourth, or last place, as long as I had done my best and was nice to others. When competing on a global stage, it was important to me as team captain  to lead with kindness and respect toward my teammates, the competition, and fans. My parents always told me that people will remember you for the kind of person you are, which has guided my success in and out of the gym.

Kindness is a muscle that can be strengthened with use. Here are a few simple suggestions to put it into practice:

Think before you speak.

It sounds simple, right?  It’s not, especially in the face of a challenging or stressful situation. This goes for in-person interactions as well as behind a computer or phone screen. To practice kindness, think about the tone of your voice, the words you’re choosing, and the “why.”  What’s the purpose of your message? Watch what happens if you take a moment to really challenge yourself to find goodness in every situation – instead of pointing out the negative, reframe the situation to highlight the opportunity. Thinking before you speak is like the brief pause we take in gymnastics before a big pass. It’s the extra moment that provides clarity.

Respond to negative with positive.

When someone is being critical or hurtful, we have a tendency to fight back with more of the same. Then what happens? The negativity escalates. But there’s real power in kindness. Especially on social media, it’s important to remember that two wrongs don’t make a right. Instead of saying something negative back, address the comment and let them know it was hurtful. Hopefully they’ll remember that everyone has feelings before commenting negatively next time. As captain of the U.S. gymnastics team, it was important to respect everyone’s point of view and work to find a solution that was best for the team.

Be kind to yourself.

We spend so much time evaluating our relationships with others that we often forget to look inward. If you’re beating yourself up about the way you look, or your capabilities, it’s harder to be nice to others. I find it’s helpful to talk to myself in the second person – using “you” versus “I.” So if you’re feeling down, try to start a sentence in your head with, “Remember, you are…” and then finish the thought with a positive. Here’s something to tell yourself to get you started: “Remember, you are unique and beautiful in your own way.”

If you practice at least one of these tips every day, you will find that kindness becomes your natural “go to” mindset. The real power in kindness is that when you practice it, it rubs off on others and can cause an incredible ripple effect. If you’re on a team, your team will be better. Your relationships with friends and family will improve and, most importantly, you’ll feel better.

My last challenge to you is to flex your kindness muscle on social media. Let’s use social media to spread positive messages and build each other up. A great place to get started is with the hashtag #ThisIsOptimism. You can also join me as one of the Faces of Life is Good by clicking here.

Thank you KINDLY! ?