To actively bring attention to being kind to oneself, as an act of self care and self awareness; a hybrid of kindness and mindfulness.
The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 is kindness. Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation between 18-24 May 2020, they’re encouraging people across the UK to show compassion to one another during these challenges.
In times like these, kindness is key.
Despite the pain and the turmoil that the pandemic has caused, we have seen acts of kindness up and down the country that put a smile on your face. We can only hope that when we look back on this time, we see not just the pain and struggles that were at hand – but also the kindness.
But how did we come to coin a new phrase? Kindfulness. Well, did you know being kind is actually good for you to do? Not just because it’s the right thing to do for others, it’s also the right thing to do for yourself…
The 5 Side Effects of Kindness – Dr. David Hamilton
Dr David Hamilton is an author and blogger who has a PhD in organic chemistry and spent 4 years in the pharmaceutical industry. As part of his research, he found that kindness has known physical benefits that elevate your overall health.
Some of his key points include:
- Kindness Makes us Happier
The first benefit that you associate with kindness comes is the positive impact that it has on your mental health. When we do something kind for someone else, we feel good. On a spiritual level, we’re tapping into something deep and profound inside of us that says, ‘This is who I am.’
On a biochemical level, it is believed that the good feeling we get is due to elevated levels of dopamine in the brain and so we get a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.
- Kindness Is Good for the Heart
Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body. It is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure). Through acts of kindness, a higher level of oxytocin is produced, therefore meaning that kindness can be cardioprotective.
- Kindness Slows Ageing
Oxytocin reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and so slows ageing at source. There have also been suggestions in the scientific journals of the strong link between compassion and the activity of the vagus nerve which regulates the heart rate and also controls inflammation levels.
- Kindness Improves Relationships
This is one of the most obvious points. We all know that we like people who show us kindness. This is because kindness reduces the emotional distance between two people and so we feel more ‘bonded’. It’s something that is so strong in us that it’s actually a genetic thing. We are wired for kindness.
- Kindness is Contagious
When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind and studies show that it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends – to 3-degrees of separation. Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so does acts of kindness ripple outwards touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.
A study reported that an anonymous 28-year-old person walked into a clinic and donated a kidney. It set off a ‘pay it forward’ type ripple effect where the spouses or other family members of recipients of a kidney donated one of theirs to someone else in need. The ‘domino effect’, as it was called in the New England Journal of Medicine report, spanned the length and breadth of the United States of America, where 10 people received a new kidney as a consequence of that anonymous donor.
How does this link to Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is where you become psychologically aware of the present moment, and where you sit within that moment. It’s a personal practice that can be interpreted in different ways across individuals. Some practice through meditation, some practice through spiritualism. They all sit along the premise of finding peace and truth, to find ‘what feels right’.
So why not practice being kind within mindfulness, to yourself as well as others.
How to practice Kindfulness
How to practice this genius new way of life we hear you ask? Times like these (lockdown life if you’re reading this in the future) it’s essential that we practice Kindfulness. No one has lived through a pandemic like this, so no one knows the answers. We don’t either. But here’s some tips that we have tried and tested whilst practicing Kindfulness:
- Reach out to your friends, hold a quiz for them where you can all laugh together and enjoy each other’s company.
- If a loved one is going through a hard time, send them a card to show them that you’re thinking about them. Handwritten notes are always more heart-felt.
- Maybe take part in some meditation at your desk when WFH, you could even join an online yoga class/community.
- Have a self care day for you and your household; full of face masks, nail care, chocolate – you name it, go get it.
- Every now and again, treat yourself to a lockdown takeaway. Not only will it lift your spirits, you’re also supporting local business’.
In conclusion, it’s time to act
Take action in being kind to others and to yourself. Those treats to others are not just for them. They will make you feel better and more fulfilled. It’s not selfish to make you and others feel good, it’s a win win.
Whilst this time is hard for everyone, kindness as a practise is something that can transform not only your world, but others around you. Bringing more happiness to your life, one kind act at a time.
And if you’re stuck for ideas on random acts of kindness, just use this as a guide: