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In uncertain times, kindness is the essential remedy

“In the end, only kindness matters.”

Those are the lyrics Jewel first sang in 1995 — a quarter century ago — and they still hold true today. They are especially relevant now, right this hour, right this minute, in a world that seems both uncertain and chock-full of negativity 24/7.

Focusing on the bad accomplishes nothing more than anxiety, dread and depression. We need to heed the recommendations of the authorities, and if that means staying home, we need to stay home. But we don’t need to consume coronavirus news all day and snack on angry Facebook and Twitter rants. We need to stay informed, but much like eating a balanced diet at regular intervals, we need to limit our intake and be mindful of what we are reading, watching, writing and saying. In short, we need to establish designated “plug in” times for our family, when we will remain informed of the current situation. But in order to maintain our sanity and enrich our own lives and the lives of others, we need to invest our time in other mindful and heartfelt activities. Which brings me back to my first point — the necessity of kindness.

While you’re sitting home, you have decisions to make. How will you fill your time? What will you accomplish? What are your goals? If the goal is brightening someone’s day, then everybody wins.

On St. Patrick’s Day, which is normally filled with celebration, I headed to Neiman’s Family Market to see if I could find corned beef brisket. This procrastinator knew it was unlikely, but I lucked out! (Pun intended.) I filled up my cart with all the fixins for a mouth-watering Irish meal, but before I even made it to the cabbage, the flower bouquets caught my eye. I thought, “Gee, my Grandma Bunny would probably love a visit today, and why not bring her flowers?” So I grabbed a pink and yellow bouquet for my 92-year-old grandma, and then another with some deep berry colored blooms for my mom. Who doesn’t love flowers? I continued my shopping with a smile on my face, anticipating the joy I would bring to two of the loveliest ladies I know.

When you choose to do something kind for another, it lightens your own spirit in the process. And kindness begets kindness. It literally makes the world a better place, all because you chose a kind gesture over the alternative.

My office is decorated in signs that may seem like they are meant for visitors, but they serve as a steady reminder to myself. Some of them read: “Think Happy Thoughts,” “Be Kind,” “Choose Joy,” “Be Awesome Today,” and “Pray More, Worry Less.”

Kindness is easier than you think. It’s kind of like exercise, in that if you stop thinking and “Just Do It,” you create a habit. Being kind is the best habit you could ever have. And it’s contagious! Yes, that can be a good thing!

Here are some suggestions for being kind to others during this time of social distancing:

¯ Send your friends and family encouragement cards in the “snail mail,” e-cards or GIFs with a joyful, happy theme, including things like spring flowers to brighten their day.

¯ Order a gift, groceries, or flowers for delivery to their door, if you don’t feel comfortable visiting people right now.

¯ Make a simple phone call, especially to seniors or friends or family who are located in “hot spots,” or who are on self-quarantine.

¯ Post HAPPY THINGS on Facebook or Twitter to offset the negativity. The other day I sent some people a GIF (a mini-video without sound) of a baby miniature horse playing with a big red ball. Because, how can you not smile at that?

¯ PRAY — Poll your friends and family for prayer requests and designate a time to address them in prayer with one or two other people, or set up a Facebook Live prayer meeting, where everyone prays together from remote locations.

¯ Open a door for someone, smile at people at the grocery store, ask that retail worker how their day is going, and say “Thank You.” Put your phone down and see the real, live people around you. They need kindness, especially now.

And so do you. Kindness to yourself is paramount to being an effective joy-giver to others. Here are some ways to be kind to yourself:

¯ Accomplish the tasks that you’ve been putting off. You have time now, so organize those photos, prep your garden for spring planting, paint that room you’ve been meaning to get to, tidy up your garage, or finish those home repairs.

¯ Engage in hobbies you never have time for. Finish knitting that scarf you started in 2012, do some scrapbooking, try out some new recipes, do craft projects, or start writing that book you’ve been planning for the last 15 years.

¯ Stay healthy. If your gym is closed, look for online group video classes you can do from your own home. Bay Athletic Club offers these right now for members, so you can still get that sense of camaraderie and accountability in a remote format.

¯ Relax. While many of our routines are interrupted right now, we can establish new routines for ourselves to maintain physical and mental health. Download a meditation app such as Headspace on your phone, which guides you through breathing and meditation exercises to recenter your mind. Do some journaling about how you are feeling right now. Brew some chamomile tea and listen to piano music. Take a bubble bath.

By no means do I think this is “the end,” as Jewel’s song states, but I know that kindness is a timeless treasure we can all share to keep our spirits up amid the chaos. We can get through this together by showing each other that we care.

Darby Hinkley is Lifestyles editor at The Alpena News. She has a communications degree from Spring Arbor University and worked as a journalist in Homer and Battle Creek before returning to her hometown of Alpena. Becoming a mom in 2008 filled her heart with her true purpose in life. Making people laugh is her favorite pastime.

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