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A Year of Living Kindly
Personal Development Book Helps Readers Understand the Hows and Whys of Kindness
Being kind is easy in moments when we are happy, hopeful, optimistic, or satisfied. It’s easy when we are actively trying. But many of us slip into unkindness in moments of frustration, impatience, exhaustion, annoyance, or stress. In these moments, we are often so focused on ourselves that we don’t notice the way we are snapping at our spouses, blowing off our friends, or being rude to strangers. We don’t realize that our actions have veered into unkindness, or that the impact of those actions might actually be more pronounced than our moments of easy kindness.
Learning how to recognize the impulses behind unkindness—and to choose kindness instead—is the subject of A Year of Living Kindly, a new personal development book by Donna Cameron. Out September 25, A Year of Living Kindly explores the challenges of being kind and provides direction on how people can overcome those barriers. It also looks at the benefits of choosing kindness, both for ourselves and the world at large. Simply being kind, Cameron argues, is a pathway to health, happiness, and inner peace.
Frankly, the world needs this book right now. Kindness has been a popular topic in songs, books, and public discourse in recent years, and for good reason. The state of our current national political discourse breeds things that exist in opposition to kindness, from misunderstanding and angry disagreement to outright hate. Social media is an arena for insults, criticism, harassment, and blatant threats. Even out on the roads and highways, you’re more likely to encounter a middle finger than a kind gesture. What has become of us as a society where we not only tolerate these combative interactions, but embrace them as the “new normal?”
For anyone who is frustrated at the lack of kindness in the world these days—or for anyone who has become desensitized to it—A Year of Living Kindly is a must-read. It’s a sledgehammer to indifference and resignation, and a reminder that being kind doesn’t mean being weak. “Outshouting the other guy has become the strategy of the day,” Cameron writes in the book’s introduction, immediately getting to the heart of the matter. Especially when politics is involved, many people think that having civil discussions, trying to see things from other perspectives, or conceding that you were wrong are all forms of surrender. Winning the argument is more important than being kind or even being reasonable—even though the results are often hurt feelings and broken relationships.
Kindness, Cameron argues, is a better strategy—one that results in stronger relationships, greater success in the workplace, and increased health and wellbeing. She made these discoveries in 2015, when she committed to the “year of living kindly” that gives this book its name. Fittingly, A Year of Living Kindly encourages readers to start their own 365-day journey toward self-discovery and betterment. The book is made up of 52 short chapters, one for each week of the year. Every chapter explores a different lesson, from “Being Nice Isn’t the Same as Being Kind” to “When the Kindest Thing to Do Is… Absolutely Nothing” and beyond. Whether readers choose to tackle one new chapter per week for a year or devour the entire book in one sitting, though, the lessons of this particular compendium are likely to stick.
What makes A Year of Living Kindly so groundbreaking is that Cameron does not try to position herself as a saint or paragon of kindness. She recognizes her weaknesses and addresses how they led her to attempt the “year of living kindly” in the first place. She acknowledges the fact that kindness is not always easy. She helps readers to see that sometimes, they might still fall short, even when making a conscious effort to choose kindness.
At the same time, though, Cameron helps her readers understand that kindness is always accessible and that it takes countless forms. Being kind doesn’t have to mean volunteering at the local homeless shelter or donating your savings to charity. Often, it’s as simple as paying attention to the people around you. By paying attention to friends and family members—their words, their body language, their moods, etc.—we can recognize when they need a helping hand or a word of encouragement. By paying attention to strangers, we might gain a better understanding of struggles or circumstances that are not our own. Most of us are quick to judge others, whether for a problematic statement, a mispronounced word, or a driving error out on the freeway. By seeing people more compassionately, understanding that mistakes are human, and striving to offer kindness rather than snark or scorn wherever possible, maybe we can build a better, less divided world.
A Year of Living Kindly is out September 25 from She Writes Press. You can preorder the book on Amazon.com or learn more about it at ayearoflivingkindly.com
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Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at manningcr953 (at) gmail.com.