Every day people are running into confl ict with each other over one thing or another. Yet such confl icts could have been avoided had people cared to cultivate a spirit of courtesy. Courtesy isn’t just about “Thank you”, “Sorry”, table manners, or surprising a dear one with an unexpected card, but it’s also about shaping and polishing one’s personality.

Despite forming part of a crowd, more and more people today are shrouded in solitude. Overwhelmed by their own inner turmoil, they have little time for others. This contributes to their tension. A kind word or a friendly gesture often helps in boosting their morale. Psychologists are reminding us that the little things we do for others and the lovely thoughts we bear for them are great remedies against nervous ailments.

Kindness shown to a fellow human or a pet makes you feel good about yourself. A thankful appreciation uplifts your mood. Teachers practise constructive praise on students’ efforts. The latter feel valued. Kindness has a magical quality about it: it’s like glue that keeps two people together even in difficult times. Courtesy is often considered the backbone of business and commercial enterprises. Without it, they wouldn’t survive.

Many people possess everything – a dream house, a well-paid job, a beautiful spouse, a car – yet their lives are tinged with sadness and anxiety. They’re unhappy deep within. What is it that they’re missing? The problem may lie in their attitudes they adopt: vanity, arrogance, pride, self-centredness, self-importance, lack of focus, a tendency to boast, to look down on others. A change in their attitudes can transform their dreary lives into something pleasant. Being kind to others empowers you to deal with your negativity. Let’s not undermine the capacity of kindness to make of us better humans. “A little bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives you roses.” Commenting on the meaning of this Chinese proverb, Robin Sharma writes, “When you work to improve the lives of others, you indirectly elevate your own life in the process. When you take care to practice random acts of kindness daily, your own life becomes far richer and more meaningful.” (The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, page 174, Jaico Publishing House, Mumbai, 2009)

A grateful disposition

Robert Emmons, who has researched the topic of gratitude, notes that it energizes in the face of demoralization, heals in brokenness and brings hope in despair.

Some people may reject courtesy, kindness and expressions of gratitude as old-fashioned in a modern world but wisdom tells us that they’re the foundation of the art of living. Society would be poorer without them. Scientific research shows that people who practise gratitude are not only happier but also more satisfied with their lives and are less likely to suffer from tension, burnout or bad sleep. It reduces stress and makes us more optimistic.

Science explains that every time a person expresses or receives gratitude, a neurotransmitter named dopamine is released in the brain, connecting the behaviour and the good feeling. The person wishes to repeat his good action. Gratitude gives peace of mind and is a powerful psychological strategy to face adversity. It frees us from toxic thoughts.

Patients benefit too. An article, The Science of Gratitude, written by Summer Allen for the John Templeton Foundation, and published by the Greater Science Centre (May 2018) informs us that “more grateful cardiac patients reported better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of cellular inflammation” and they “experience less depression and are more resilient following traumatic events.”

Gratitude “binds people to their partners and friends by making them feel appreciated and encouraging them to engage in behaviour that will help prolong their relationships.” In short, it fortifies relationships.

Practising gratitude means training the mind to see the good. A positive attitude assists patients in their journey to recovery. In “Life’s Amazing Secrets” (Penguin Ananda, India, 2018), life coach Gaur Gopal Das writes on page 30 that it is not just positivity we feel when we embrace gratitude, we also have better sleep; we feel more alive and we can even have a stronger immune system.

I think that courtesy, kindness and thankfulness are values we need to inculcate in our children. This will help them, now and afterwards, to play their roles in society as well as possible and also to enjoy a healthy mindset.

So the next time we catch ourselves complaining and whining for nothing, let’s remember that somewhere someone is better off with far less than what we have. Here’s a thought-provoking poem for your meditation:

Let us rise up and be thankful For if we didn’t learn a lot today At least we learned a little And if we didn’t learn a little At least we didn’t get sick And if we got sick At least we didn’t die. [Buddha]