How to Light Up a Room Without Stepping Inside

Kindness is a knock on the door

Don Johnson
Mar 4 · 6 min read
Photo by Shutterstock

Friday night. The candles flickered on the dining room table. The just-out-of-the-oven homemade pizza lay on the wooden cutting boards, ready to slice. My wife picked up her glass of red wine. I did the same, and we toasted our good fortune — a roof over our heads, good food, our health, and happiness.

I heard a knock on the front door, “Must be another Amazon delivery. I probably ordered something. They’ll leave it there.” My wife said, “I don’t know. Let me go check.” I heard some voices, and she came back a minute later. “That was the guy we saw on the street a few weeks ago. The trunk on your car is wide open, and he wanted to tell us.“Really? Wow, that’s nice of him.”

When we experience kindness we’re reminded of the goodness inherent in human beings, which can shift our focus from what’s wrong in the world to what is right. When we see it in others, we recognize it in ourselves and discover we want to be that person who is kind. We intuitively know kindness is our true nature.

We’re in a time of historic transformation right now. An uncertain future can trigger self-protective, defensive, and “let me take care of me” behaviors. Understandable. Minor annoyances may more easily get under your skin. What used to slide right off your back now makes you snappy or short with people. There have been days when I’ve become the irritable version of myself. Not real pleasant.

Or, maybe it’s not uncertainty; perhaps it’s just the grind of everyday life. You might be tired, busy, and distracted. It’s easy to drift off and forget to ask your partner if they want a refill on their coffee when you go get yours. Instead of offering to cook dinner, you hesitate because you don’t want to take on any more. But you think about it later and wonder if you’re becoming small-minded.

If any of this sounds like you, the bad news is you’ve become momentarily disconnected from the real you. The good news is your true self is full of kindness, and you can quickly reconnect.

It’s been said; there are two kinds of people in the world — those who light up a room when they enter and those who light it up when they leave. Kind people light up the room — they shine from the inside.

Here are five easy practices to help you shine from the inside — and light up a room.

Keith J. Cunningham, the best-selling author of, The Road Less Stupid: Advice from the Chairman of the Board, says,

“Happiness is only available through gratitude. It is gratitude that forces you to focus on the present and not the regrets of the past and the fears of the future. Fulfillment is only available by giving what you’ve got. The triumph of happiness and fulfillment is found through gratitude and contribution.”

Before we go to sleep most nights, my wife and I hold hands and say what we’re grateful for that day. Other people, I know, journal in the morning, reminding themselves what they are thankful for.

It doesn’t matter if you’re grateful for big things, like getting a new job or a promotion, or everyday things like seeing the sunrise or drinking a good cup of coffee.

Being grateful ignites positive energy in the body and mind. It opens the heart, keeps us humble, and reminds us of our good fortune. When we’re grateful, we are more resilient, happier, and more radiant.

Make gratitude a daily practice.

Burn-out is real. Our bodies and minds need time to heal when we work hard. Being braindead isn’t just a metaphor. When I finish a week of writing, my brain feels soft. My thinking is dull. My brain needs time to heal and recharge: time to unplug and detox.

What works for me is moving my body, getting fresh air, staying off devices. Doing something as simple as taking ten deep breaths will restore needed oxygen to the brain. Better yet, create “you” time each day. Ten minutes minimum where you do nothing except sit quietly and meditate or breathe or think.

When we go within, we take care of ourselves, connect with our inner self and the source of joy, inspiration, and happiness. When we feel restored, we can take care of others. When they interact with us, they see hope, and they feel our joy. When we’re alive and lit up, we can light others up.

Take good care of yourself.

Stories of suffering, chaos, greed, and misinformation in the mainstream media easily outweigh messages of hope. Our minds and bodies are like sponges; we can absorb that negative energy. We need to keep our psyche clean to be the best version of ourselves.

Limit or eliminate dependency on watching the mainstream news. If you do watch it, balance it with equal or more time spent watching or listening to positive messaging. Hang out with optimistic people. Don’t get involved in blaming and complaining.

Before I go to sleep, I either pray, read positive affirmations, or ask the Universe for guidance. Over time, I’ve found it clears any negative messaging leftover from the day while building new, resilient thought patterns.

Keep your energy up.

Indigenous people, tribes, and clans throughout civilization who have suffered did not stop singing, dancing, and finding joy in whatever they did have. They sustained themselves by bringing their heart into everyday life, no matter how hard it was.

Bring joy into your life each day by doing things that make you happy. Think of these as little moments of luxury just for you. Take a walk, run a warm bath with candles, have a piece of rich dark chocolate, cook a favorite food, watch a great TV show, sing if you like singing, dance if you want to dance.

Treat yourself with kindness; it will help stimulate joy.

Our words create our world. A slight shift in the way we speak can help us maintain openness and kindness and avoid unnecessary friction. Here are some examples.

  • Instead of saying, “You’re not making any sense,” say, “I’m having trouble understanding you.”
  • Instead of saying, “You always interrupt me,” say, “Please let me finish.”
  • Instead of saying, “You handled the situation quite well, but there is something you missed.” say, “You handled the situation quite well, and I noticed (x). What do you think about that?”
  • Instead of saying, “Are you still working on your pet project?” say, “How is the project coming along?”
  • Instead of saying, “You’ve got it all wrong,” say, “I have a concern about what you are working on. Can we discuss it?”

Speak with respect and kindness.

I went out and closed the trunk of my car, thinking about how this guy’s small act of kindness affected me. I thought about the type of person he is — generous, thoughtful, and honest. He inspired me, reminding me I have those qualities too.

I looked up at the full moon, low in the February sky, beaming like a giant celestial spotlight, the last one of the winter, and thought, damn, can’t we all be kinder to ourselves and each other and make the world a better place to live?

Sure we can. All it takes is a pleasant word to a stranger, an offer of help to a friend in a jam; a random thank you card to your partner, or giving someone your uninterrupted attention while they speak with you.

I came back inside, sat down, sliced up the pizza, and thanked my wife for answering the door. She looked at me and said, “That guy didn’t even have to walk in the room to light it up. He just knocked.”

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

Thanks to Travis Hubbard and Michael Thompson

Don Johnson

Written by

Life lessons from 10 years as a monk, 49 years meditating, and 30 years in the shark-infested waters of corporate America |

Mind Cafe

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

Don Johnson

Written by

Life lessons from 10 years as a monk, 49 years meditating, and 30 years in the shark-infested waters of corporate America |

Mind Cafe

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

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