Last Wednesday; I went to my regular morning run. I was running alone and keeping a "distance" from other sports enthusiasts. There was a point in the path that narrowed a lot. A lot less than the 1,5 meters distance we're supposed to keep from each other. There were bushes to each side. I kept running, enjoying the views.
A little further down the way, I could see a guy standing. He was with his dog: a big, white, fluffy dog. We saw each other, and I began to slow down. I didn't know if I had to step out the path to avoid him and risk of falling into the bushes, or if he was going to move. He immediately went out of the way to give me space to run through, cracked a smile and said "good morning". To which I replied: "good morning, and thank you!" With a big smile on my face. This small gesture made me feel connected in some way, and I realised how a small gesture of kindness makes a big difference.
The current situation in which most of the world has been living; socially distancing from each other, has led to an increase in mental health issues like anxiety and depression, to name a few.
Research shows that kindness and mental health are deeply connected. All human beings need to experience kindness to feel alive. According to a study from UC Berkely "About half of participants in one study reported that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth". Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realisation and physical health is significantly improved. Delayed mortality, reduced depression and increased well-being and good fortune.
What is Kindness? We can say that kindness is when you decide to do something towards another living being with the genuine intention of making a positive impact in their lives.
Kindness can be taught and improved. Like a muscle, you can teach and learn how to respond to others with care and the eagerness to help them.
Positive side effects of kindness:
1. Your oxytocin levels increase. According to David R Hamilton, an increase in your oxytocin levels causes to lowers blood pressure and improves overall heart-health, and it also reduces anxiety.
2. Increases your lifespan: free radicals and inflammation are two culprits that accelerate ageing. By consistently practising kindness and compassion, you're proven to release certain chemicals that attack free radicals and inflammation like oxytocin and the activation of the vagus nerve, which controls inflammation levels.
3. Increased energy: practising little acts of kindness during a day increases your energy by raising your brain's vibration.
4. Increased happiness: when you genuinely help someone, you feel good. Due to higher dopamine levels that get you to have a natural "high" feeling.
5. Lowers depression: according to new research published in the journal, Translational Issues in Psychological Science. Practising selfless acts to help others can impact the levels of depression by lowering them. People focus more on helping others and less on their problems.
At home, we can teach our children and family to practice kindness daily. This is a skill that can be taught and learn. By practising kindness at home, you will have happier kids, less anxious and stress; you will build stronger relationship bonds and a better marriage.
How can you practice kindness at home?
Kindness can be as simple as saying please and thank you.