“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”
– Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter
Much like many awareness days, World Kindness Day (November 13th) and National Random Acts of Kindness Day (February 17th) were designed to bring focus to an issue that often is neglected in day-to-day life. However, unlike national and world awareness days, it is baffling to consider there is such a lack of kindness that we need to mark a day to celebrate something that is genetically encoded in each of us. Since National Random Acts of Kindness Day is almost upon us, we wanted to take the opportunity to explore why kindness is such an integral part of the human experience and challenge people to spread awareness and engage in the kindness challenge…..more on that toward the end.
Kindness, compassion and gratitude are three of the most impactful, least pharmacological interventions that guarantee a positive effect on our neurological functioning and emotions. We have an enormous breadth of research on how and why kindness has the capacity to not only positively alter the mood of others and also has a drastic impact on the person that initiates an act of kindness toward another. Providing an act of kindness can be one of the most selfishly satisfying acts a person could provide in that it increases dopamine levels, produces oxytocin, a hormone that aids in expanding blood vessels and lowering blood pressure and helps us feel more connected to not only the recipient of the kind act, but more connected to humankind in general.
Not only do the receiver and giver of kindness benefit, folks who witness the act of kindness actually benefit as well, helping them experience similar effects and increasing their capacity to engage in acts of kindness too. Adults benefit through taking themselves out of the vicissitudes of the daily “I must get this or that done way of life” and think unselfishly of others. The prevalence of depression and anxiety in adults continues to increase where loneliness and isolation have become cultural norms rather than connectedness and kindness. Think acts and benefits of kindness are limited to adults? Adolescents, often mislabeled as self-serving in their thoughts and actions, are enormous beneficiaries when practicing kind acts, particularly with strangers. While the prevalence of depression and anxiety continues to increase with adolescents at a rate higher than any other age group, kindness has shown to decrease levels of depression while simultaneously increasing compassion for others as well as self-compassion. Even children’s programming such as Sesame Street has started engaging in the kindness game.
Is the Four Minute Kindness Challenge as simple as it sounds? Absolutely! The call to action is simply finding a person and, in less than four minutes, providing one kind act that will benefit that person. Looking for some ideas to get started?
- Call three contacts and tell them why they are important in your life
- Secretly pass on a positive complement to a well-deserving colleague in the workplace
- Walk down the street and say hello to 3 random people
- Purchase a gift card for your postal worker and thank them for their work outside of a holiday season
- Send a thank you note to the boss that fired you-you would not be where you are today without being fired
- Place flowers in a public place with a note letting the person know you hope they have a great day
- Find an old friend you haven’t contacted in more than a year and reconnect with them
- Volunteer 60 minutes in an organization you would like to support
- Looking for an ongoing act of kindness that matches a cause you would like to support? Try visiting org for resources that can help match your interests to a group that needs support.
Don’t forget to extend that kindness to yourself. Bringing awareness to self judgments and limiting harsh inner monologues can be the gateway to opening up kindness toward ourselves. As you begin the 4 minute kindness challenge, we invite you try a Metta or Loving Kindness meditation. If you have not engaged in a Loving Kindness Meditation, the goal is to suffer less through a mantra of compassion and kindness. Here is a Burmese Loving Kindness meditation:.
May (a specific person) be free from physical suffering.
May he/she be free from mental suffering and addiction
May he/she be free from conflict.
May he/she have ease of well-being.
It’s important to extend this to oneself as well (“May I be free from X etc). Be creative and encouraged (“May he/she be free to develop the beauty of his/her mind.”, May he or she find beauty in Recovery etc. ) This practice can be an entrance to expressing gratitude and kindness.
There is no requirement that one must wait for an awareness day to practice kindness!
Let us know your unique acts of kindness and we will publish the results.
We wish you a full day of generosity in spirit and kindness, even if you find yourself stuck in traffic, flunking a test, getting yelled at by your boss, burning your lunch, not being as effective as you would like to be as a parent or fighting with your significant other. See if kindness can
change the outcome of your day……
Jim Holsombach MA &Louise Stanger Ed.d, LCSW, CDWF, CIP