Well if yesterday’s post was all about loving yourself then it makes sense that today’s should be about loving others. By loving others, I mean kindness. Good old being nice to one another.
Why does that matter to our own happiness? Well, in addition to it just being a nice thing to do, being kind to others makes us feel really good. It’s scientifically proven to boost our happiness.
I first learnt about this from the lovely Dr David Hamilton who has a book ‘Why Kindness is good for you’ he has written some amazing books and this one talks about how kindness changes the brain (in a good way) it talks about the effects of kindness on our health, the heart and well, just about every cell in our body and how compassion and empathy really can help us in mind body and spirit. It really is fascinating stuff and what I love about David’s book (and all his others for that matter) is that there is a tonne of science in there.
Like a lot of these things, practice yields great results, in the book I mentioned above, there is a 21 day challenge but even starting small can work wonders.
We’re all aware of the ‘good deed for the day’ whether that’s helping a granny across the road or buying a homeless person a cup of coffee. But it can even come down to smaller acts of kindness like letting cars out at junctions or even just smiling more.
My mum is a northerner and while that makes her brutally honest on occasion (northerners seem to be able to say it like it is no problem) she also has a friendliness about her that always fascinates me. When I’m up in Yorkshire everyone smiles and says hello, I always feel chuffed and it makes me smile. My grandpa (who was actually Welsh in origin but spent most of his adult life in Yorkshire) used to greet everyone and stop and randomly chat to just about anyone. When down south he was no different and used to get a few puzzled looks from startled southerners but to him it was natural to just chat away and connect with people and I loved that about him.
I know that when someone has done something nice for me, when they didn’t have to, or when someone leaves me a nice comment I genuinely feel overwhelmed in a good way. There’s allsorts of feel good chemicals at work. And it’s these chemicals that have such a good effect on us. Did you know when you hug someone or even stroke a pet it releases Oxytocin which is our feel good hormone but it also has an incredible effect on our heart. Actually, although this post isn’t about stress, there is an amazing Ted Talk by psychologist Kelly McGonigal that also covers Oxytocin. If you have a spare 15 minutes I recommend you watch it it’s great!
Kindness is also about giving and it can be our time or even our ideas or expertise that we give to others. Helping friends, family and the community are all ways to put kindness out there in to the world. I work for an organisation that invests a lot in volunteering we even get volunteering days we can use. Some of the best team events we have done have been when volunteering was involved – we did some gardening and decorating days at a local home and are about to volunteer for the Tiggywinkles charity which I am really excited about.
Even just sharing our experiences can be an act of kindness if its helping someone else, I am featuring a little more on this in a post later this week about resilience but there are so many ways we can connect and share with others which not only helps us, it helps them to.
One of the really good things about kindness is that it’s contagious. It’s the whole ‘pay it forward’ phenomenon. If you do something kind for someone, you inspire them to do something kind for another can you imagine if we all started being kinder what might happen?
I think this is why many of the older generation talk of how things were different during the war. I used to work in a creative agency and we used to write a paper for the forces veterans. It was my job to sit on the phone to veterans and listen to, take down and subsequently write their stories. It was always fascinating for me and one of my favourite jobs ever and I spent many hours sat in a gloomy little office completely transfixed, sometimes sobbing at what I heard. It always seemed so strange to me that even though there was the horrific fact that there was a war going on, war-time Britain was a very different place, not only because of rationing and so on but because everyone seemed to pull together and support each other. It’s crazy that people remember a time that was in effect incredibly tragic so wistfully and with fondness because of how people treated each other.
The only experience I have that comes close to that (and it really doesn’t but you get the point) is when about 8 or 9 years ago we had the most ridiculous snow storms and my home town came to a standstill. It seriously was like Armageddon. But, what was amazing was how people got out of their cars, came out of shops and just rallied together helping others that were stuck and struggling. It was quite something and I didn’t want to go home, I wanted to be out there helping and being involved all night. So I think once you get involved in community or a project you become even motivated to do more.
So kindness to others really is a win, win situation. It’s good for others and it’s also good for us. I talked yesterday in my post about how the world can seem a little self-focused at the moment and it feels like we could all do with a little more kindness. So, start today, go big or start small, it really doesn’t matter – in a world where you can be anything be kind 🙂