When is World Kindness Day? Well, you’re right if you said Nov. 13, but that’s a few months away.
Actually, we know some kindness is certainly needed today with all the negativity going on in society. So, let’s look at why giving, and receiving, kindness is important. Let’s also look at ways we can be kind to others, to ourselves and contribute to creating a kinder world.
The importance of being able to receive kindness became apparent when Doug’s mother, Althea, injured her back and recently passed away in our home. People showered Althea, and us, with prayers, cards, flowers and help. The choir from church said they would deliver food to us. At first we said we were doing OK, but they insisted — and we were so glad to receive the meals.
When some wonderful dinners were delivered to us, I (Lynn) literally cried. We hadn’t realized how tired we were and how much we would enjoy sitting down to a delicious, prepared meal at the end of a stressful day.
Another kindness by a woman who had been Althea’s bath caregiver for years, also touched our hearts deeply. Althea was near the end of her very long life and the caregiver bathed Althea with loving care. Then she took extra time to set Althea’s hair in curlers. She knew how much Althea loved having curly hair and she said that “now Althea could meet Jesus with curly hair.”
The caregiver left with tears in her eyes, knowing it wouldn’t be long before Althea’s spirit would leave this earth. She was right – Althea passed peacefully the next day to go meet her Lord with her head full of beautiful curls. We’re still so appreciative of this humble caregiver who made such a difference in Althea’s life and in our lives. We’ve definitely received kindness.
Research also shows that when people do kindness, there can be many benefits for themselves. Doing kindness lowers stress. If we’re stressed, the hormone and neurotransmitter cortisol increases, which lowers mood, is not good for the heart and speeds up aging. Doing kindness can be a big help to avoid these negative conditions.
A study at Emory University showed that doing kindness actually produces something known as a “helper’s high.” When people were engaged in a charitable activity, endorphins were released in the brain. People gained a sense of euphoria similar to what happens with exercise.
When doing kindness, serotonin and oxytocin are also released. These are hormones and neurotransmitters that positively affect mood so people feel calmer, happier and more sociable. With kindness, cortisol is lowered, blood pressure is lowered and this is all good for the heart. Aging is slowed, too. So, how about those positive findings. There are even studies showing that there are benefits from just observing someone doing kindness.
All this scientific stuff seems confusing, but it’s really simple — do kindness and observe kindness to be healthier. It has been said, “Kindness is a gift everyone can afford to give.” So what are some ways to be kind?
- Start with being kind to yourself. Do you nurture yourself, take time to relax, really savor a meal, get enough sleep and be with family and friends? Do you speak kindly to yourself, forgive yourself for mistakes and recognize your learning as steps on the path to being a better you? How you treat yourself will make a big difference in how you feel, and in your motivation to be kind to others. So, here are a few things you can do to be kind to others and some will also apply in being kind to yourself.
- Choose a kindness mindset. You can’t control how others treat you, but you can choose to be kind. Give to give, without expecting to receive.
- Share a warm smile and a listening ear. These actions show you care.
- Have compassion. All people have struggles in life. They might look perfect on social media, but they have plenty of challenges, too. With understanding, you’ll find ways to be kind that fit the situation.
- Volunteer to help. By asking someone if you can help, you’ll find numerous opportunities. Kindness can be volunteering in an organization of your choice or be as simple as opening a door or carrying a bag of groceries for someone.
What about you? How will you be kinder to yourself and others? We’ve suggested some ways for you to consider. As we practice kindness, we’ll be contributing to creating a kinder world.