VigR® Chat — The Case for Kindness
As we enter the holidays during this most unusual year, we have a choice as to how we approach the season. We can choose to be be positive and make the best of our situation.
While the conditions imposed upon us are not those most of us would have chosen, we can either focus on all the things that are missing — such as the ability to spend time with friends and family, attend holiday parties and special meals, concerts and plays — or we can decide to have a special, albeit, different holiday season.
While the sadness over disrupted plans and family gatherings are real and need to be felt and acknowledged, the simple truth is that many of us will not be experiencing our normal holiday traditions and that we have a choice as to how we react to our imposed circumstances.
Our mind does not know whether what we are telling it is true or false. It responds to what we tell it. So why not tell ourselves that we are going to create a holiday season of joy and well-being? Why not start now and then make a New Year’s resolution to continue to be intentionally joyful.
Choosing to focus on practicing gratitude and positive thinking is an essential part of living a happier life.
According to Harvard Health research, gratitude helps you “feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve your health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Kindness is a Path to Happiness
One of the best ways to practice gratitude is by doing simple acts of kindness towards other people. When you’re being kind to others, you’re not just giving. In fact, you are getting a lot, if not more, in return. While we intrinsically know that we feel good when we do something kind for another and how wonderful it feels to be the recipient of kindness, research has confirmed the overwhelmingly positive benefits of kindness.
According to Dr. Waguih William IsHak, a professor of psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai, kindness is a path to happiness. Showing kindness to others not only feels good, but also releases hormones that contribute to your mood and overall well-being.
One that is well known is oxytocin, known as the love hormone, which plays a role in forming social bonds and trusting other people. According to Dr. IsHak, acts of kindness have also been linked to a release of dopamine, which results in a feeling of euphoria, resulting in what is known as a “helper’s high”. Additionally, being kind can increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood.
During Social Distancing, Kindness Connects Us
Additionally, Drs. Sreenivasan and Weinberger wrote in Psychology Today that being aware that you are being kind heightens the sense of your own good fortune. It also makes you feel more connected.
“When you feel connected with others, you lessen alienation and you enhance the sense that we are more similar than dissimilar in our experiences. Feeling connected melds us together rather than divides us.
Kindness is potent in strengthening a sense of community and belonging.” During these days of social distancing, when we can’t be physically connected with our friends and family members, fostering a sense of connection through acts of kindness towards others is especially important.
Compassion and Kindness Has Many Benefits
Drs. Sreenivasan and Weinberger also cited research saying that compassion and kindness has the power to reduce stress, boost the immune system, and help reduce negative emotions such as anger, depression, and anxiety. Of course, one single act of kindness won’t offer these benefits beyond an hour or two. However, cultivating kindness as a way of being does lead to ongoing benefits. So much so, that building a practice of kindness and gratitude are included in mindfulness-based therapy programs for people experiencing anxiety and depression.
Be Part of the Friends Life Care Kindness Project
In an effort to create a ripple effect of well-being through our own lives and the lives of others, we invite you to participate in the 2020 Friends Life Care Kindness Project. Since what we focus on is what we see, why not choose to focus on brightening someone’s day by offering an act of kindness?
We are proposing that for each day leading up to the new year that you consciously choose to express, in the way that is the most natural for you, an act of kindness toward another person.
Examples of kind acts include:
- Hand-writing a note to a family member or close friend letting them know how much they mean to you
- Thanking the sanitation workers that pick up your trash each week or the mail carrier that delivers your notes and packages
- Leaving cookies or some other treat for a neighbor
- Greeting the person that you pass on the sidewalk (at a safe distance)
- Putting money in an expired meter so the person parked there may avoid a ticket
- Giving an extra-generous tip to a waitstaff person
- Calling to check on someone you know may need a friendly touch
- Sending a note of appreciation to someone who has positively impacted your life
- Volunteering – can be even done remotely
- Writing to a soldier away from home during the holidays
- Donating a toy to a shelter or Toys for Tots
- Giving a compliment to a stranger
- Saying a simple thank you to the cashier at your local grocery or retail store expressing gratitude for his or her efforts during the pandemic
- Finding other ways to Be Kind
The list of kind deeds is endless and performing them will brighten the day of your recipient and yourself. Even small acts can have a big impact. I still remember how touched I was when a co-worker left a treat of dark chocolate on my desk because she had heard me say how much I liked it. Since kindness often tends to be “contagious”, can you imagine the tsunami of well-being that would be created by so many random acts of kindness?
If this has inspired you, we invite you to make a list of special people in your life and let know what you appreciate about them. Then take a few moments to think of people who could use a friend, warm gesture or kind word. Make a list of charities where you may want to volunteer or contribute. Think of things that you can do, in ways large or small, to brighten someone’s day.
Make Kindness a Lifelong Practice
While we are proposing performing random acts of kindness through the end of the year, you may find the benefits to be so positive that you decide to make it a lifetime practice. Although the pandemic has created chaos in all our lives and disrupted our plans and social interactions, it has also provided an opportunity for us to pause and reflect on what is really important to us and how we can evolve to become the best version of ourselves.
Reflect on Power You Have Within
We encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the power that you have within yourself to shape your experience during this holiday season. While we can’t control the restrictions that the pandemic has created in our lives, we can control our reaction to them. We can choose to create a meaningful and joyous holiday season for ourselves and others without spending extravagantly or running around buying and wrapping gifts.
YOU are Special and Appreciated
One of my favorite saying is, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” Recognize the positive impact that your kind word or action can have another and know the power that you have to make a difference. That being said, please know that we appreciate very much you taking the time to read this post and to honor us with your attention. May you know that you are special and appreciated. Best wishes for a healthy, happy and grateful holiday season! May you be the giver and recipient of many acts of kindness!
And Inspire Others!
How can you spread kindness. Is there a way to reach out to others even with the need to social distance this holiday season. If you’d like to share acts of kindness that you have performed or received, please feel free to post them below. Your comments and actions may inspire others!
Director of Wellness Initiatives
Gail is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a National Certified Counselor, and a certified yoga instructor. She is passionate about health and wellness and about helping others overcome their self-perceived limitations in order to live their most authentic life. Her expertise comes from years of studying human behavior, the Dimensions of Wellness, positive psychology, and habit change and integrating this information into every aspect of her work. In addition to program development, counseling and coaching, Gail has presented workshops on various wellness topics, written articles for wellness newsletters and an article on the positive role of mindfulness in the workplace, published in CDHC Solutions, a magazine for employee health professionals. She formerly hosted a radio show on B101 Philadelphia, discussing health related issues.
Kwanzaa image: rashida s. mar b. from Baltimore, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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