I remember asking my mum as a child what my best quality was, in the hopes she would say funny, or clever or pretty.
But she actually said I was ‘kind’, 10-year-old-me, felt bitterly disappointed in her remark, in fact I thought that she’d made it up because she couldn’t think of anything else nice to say … being kind isn’t what most kids of my age wanted to hear. It didn’t seem quite dynamic, exciting, or fun enough.
Turns out that I underrated the street cred of kindness. Fast forward, ahem, X number of years to 2022 and kindness is all the rage! It seems that everyone wants to be considered kind, in fact it’s been the buzz word of the past few years. There’s even entire days and weeks devoted to it.
The Random Acts of Kindness Day took place again this year on 17 February, it originated in Denver Colorado, 1995. The idea behind the day is to make the world a little brighter and better through simple, kind-gestures, words and actions.
But don’t worry if you missed it, there’s still plenty of other opportunities and wonderful reasons to give and receive kindness.
Most people don’t realise this, being kind is more than just doing a good turn for someone else. Kindness plays a crucial role in our wellbeing. Whether we’re giving kindness, receiving kindness or simply witnessing it, research has shown that kindness causes chemical changes in our body that improves our physical and mental health
Maybe you’ve heard of the expression, ‘helpers high’ it’s the tingly, happy feeling of goodness that warms your insides when you know you’ve done something to positively impact a person or situation.
Kindness gives us the same happy rush of hormones that are triggered when you cuddle a new born baby, spend time with a loved one, or in my case, pet a cute cat!
The hormone Oxytocin and a chemical called nitric oxide are released into the blood vessels which expand, reducing blood pressure, protecting the heart and keeping it healthy. It’s even been said that people who express high levels of kindness produce more endorphins which are the brain’s natural pain killers, and they produce 23% less of the stress hormone cortisol meaning they are more laid back as a result.
I bet if I asked you to name 3 kind things, you’d done for other people recently you’d have no problem, but how about if I asked what kind things, you’d done for yourself lately. Would you struggle? It’s often the case, we can easily and frequently express kindness to others, yet we neglect to extend that loving care to ourselves.
When we turn kindness inward, it sends a message to other people about the way we’d like to be treated, it also means that when we take better care of ourselves, we have more energy reserves to help others when they need us the most.
Here’s 5 simple ways to kindness
1. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but here it is: being kind sometimes means you have to do the difficult things. Having uncomfortable conversations, you’d rather avoid, doing the jobs you’ve been putting off. You don’t have to be cruel to be kind, but sometimes you do have to be assertive
2. Donate unwanted items to foodbanks and charity shops, decluttering your space will make you feel better and it benefits others
3. Volunteer your time to a cause you believe in, kindness helps the charity and gives you a sense of pride and purpose which is good for physical and mental health
4. Set aside a couple of minutes, hours or days, depending on your commitments, to do something you love, that’s just for you, it will help you decompress and release and unwanted stress or worry
5. Take a few moments to check-in with friends, family and neighbours, it will be good for you too
Kindness is contagious, don’t overthink it, just go for it and watch the goodness spread!
Shannon Humphrey is a First Aid for Mental Health Instructor Youth and Adult, for more information visit www.pathwaysforpositivity.com