Everyday Kindness - Stephanie Dowrick

I've read hundreds, if not thousands, of motivational / self-help style books over the years both for my own interest and as part of my reviewing websites. Many of them simply reiterate what others have said, while some offer downright confusing or unhelpful advice. I'm thrilled that Everyday Kindness by Stephanie Dowrick offers a wonderful set of essays clustered around the topic of kindness.

So often in life we can get wrapped up in our daily stresses. We snap at the person behind the counter. We roll our eyes at a co-worker. We huff at a request of a family member. We forget that each of those actions we take define us as a person - and affect our health and long term wellness. We are carving paths into our brain which are hard to erase. We are infecting others with our negativity.

Ms. Dowrick provides a series of essays, collected by topic area, which will keep you busy reading for a while. My pre-release copy of the book ran 336 pages long. There are sections in here on work, family, moods, identity, and more. In each area, Ms. Dowrick offers both personal observations as well as practical how-to information to improve your own life. You can see that she's "been there" and knows the situation you're in. Then you can see how to get out of it.

She makes it clear that being kind is NOT about being a doormat. You have to be kind to yourself as well to others. There is a balance between being an egomaniac who cares little for the feelings of others and being a trampoline that others use to jump to higher levels from. You can be kind while you say "no". You can be kind while you stay with your priorities. You can be kind while you help your partner towards eating more healthy foods.

She reminds you that life is short - treasure each day and don't put things off that are important to you. One never knows what tomorrow will bring.

She talks about the filters we often carry around with us. "If we're convinced the world is flat, we will spot evidence of it". So often we can be in a negative frame of mind and then assume others are as well. It takes effort to move beyond that self-reinforcing mindset and to look at the world fresh.

We learn that so much of our health is wound up in the state of our kindness. Often we eat poor food because we are lonely or sad, not because we are hungry. With kindness being so critical to everything we do, Ms. Dowrick advises, "practice kindness - regardless of who 'deserves' it." I think that's a fantastically wonderful message. Maybe it is those who are having a hard time that especially NEED some kindness in order to get back on track. We ourselves get "down" sometimes. Wouldn't we have appreciated a gentle, kind word, those times we felt that life was too heavy to carry?

The book certainly is not all perfect. Being a collection of essays written primarily for an Australian market, there are some that are Australian-centric. I don't mind that; I like seeing the world from a variety of views. But it is worth mentioning. Ms. Dowrick talks about how somehow there is more bullying at work. In my discussions with women about what work USED to be like in the 50s and 60s, I think we have made immense progress in the rights of workers and the level of respect they feel they deserve. If anything I think we have far LESS bullying than ever before and that we are also more aware of it. Certainly we should strive towards zero bullying, but we should also be cognizant of the progress we have made.

She does tend to push her other books a bit much, which annoys me but I accept that from an author. She starts the book by saying 'Virtually every moment of our greatest happiness would reflect the giving and receiving of kindness". Maybe it's my discussion-minded mind, but I tend to resist greatly when an author of a book claims that the entire world revolves around their book's topic :). It's unnecessary. Surely she could have said that MANY of our happiest moments are related to kindness.

And, finally, my key complaint here is about the book's layout. The intro area has a table of contents that just lists the main sections like Self Confidence - 93. So far, so good. But you go to look for it and it turns out that the chapter pages don't have page numbers on them! So really you're looking for "pages near the page" which is a bit silly. Then that chapter page lists all the sub-essays within that chapter. So for example the Self Confidence chapter has Speaking Up, In Our Own Time, and so on. But there are NO PAGE NUMBERS. So now to find a given one that seems interesting you have to randomly page through the chapter (which could be 50 or more pages) to find that entry. And again every essay first page has no page number. So you can't even easily make notes to yourself. And those essay titles aren't listed in the main table of contents. So it makes going back and forth and finding content fairly tedious. It makes no sense at all to me in our modern day and age why the main table of contents doesn't have main and subheadings, all with page numbers, and then have page numbers on every page in the book.

Still, even given these distractions, the essays are well worth reading. Some you might not relate to, and others might strike you to the core. That's the beauty of having a collection. We are all different people with different interests. Some of us are parents dealing with raising 3 kids, while others of us are just out of college and our issues involve dating and work. The essays provide something to help each person.

Highly recommended.

I was sent a free copy of this book to review from the publisher.

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