We’re in the midst of the season for giving. There’s something we can all give away and it’s free: kindness. When we are kind to someone else, we might just be setting off a chain reaction, as one act of kindness can be the inspiration that becomes a gift that keeps on giving.
Sometimes it seems that our world is inundated with mean spirited, self-centered behavior. Have people stopped thinking about the impact of their words and actions on those around them? I’ve never forgotten Thumper the rabbit’s quote from the movie “Bambi” from my childhood: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Words can truly hurt so I hope you’ll always take a moment to consider the harm that can come from harsh words.
According to Brooke Jones, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation vice president, “… when we commit an act of kindness, we feel good. There is an increase in oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine as well as a decrease in cortisol.” The first three are “’feel good’ chemicals that aid in lowering blood pressure, improving overall heart health and help us feel calmer and less depressed. Cortisol is the ‘stress’ hormone that has been found to decrease in the bloodstream when people regularly participate in kind acts.”
Kindness can be taught and no one is too old or too hardened to learn how to treat others kindly. Being a role model to others by demonstrating kindness is one way to start. Here are some easy ideas for being kind and the benefits of doing so, adapted from the Prevention Action Alliance’s Know! newsletter:
- Give someone a genuine compliment.
- Talk to someone new at school or in your neighborhood.
- Write a note to let someone know they are loved and appreciated.
- Randomly thank a teacher or co-worker to show your gratitude.
- Deliver a surprise basket of cookies to a neighbor.
- Say thank you—a lot—and really mean it.
- Hold the door for someone.
- Invite someone to join you and your friends for lunch.
- Shovel an elderly person’s driveway – without anything in return.
- Help someone clean up a mess.
- Look people in the eyes, smile and say “hello”—often.
Extending kindness to others is simple and there are countless opportunities to do so every day. The bonus of kindness is that both the giver and the receiver will benefit in a number of ways, including:
- Increased feelings of happiness and satisfaction.
- Decreased feelings of stress and depression.
- Increased acceptance among peers and a greater sense of belonging.
- Improved self-esteem and self-worth.
- Enhanced immune system and ability to concentrate.
- Greater sense of gratitude.
“There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” (Fred Rogers)
Penny Sitler is the Executive Director, Mental Health America of Licking County
Published Dec. 23, 2018 in the Newark Advocate.