by Susan Branch

World Kindness Day

Starting in 1988, World Kindness Day has been celebrated on November 13 and has become an international observance in 27 countries, thanks to the World Kindness Movement, “a not-for-profit organization with no political, commercial or religious affiliations … [comprised of] … like-minded kindness organisations from around the world for the first time”. [1]

The objective of the World Kindness Day is to “highlight good deeds in the community focusing on the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us”. [2]

What does it mean to be kind?

Kindness is an innate interpersonal skill we will all do well to harness. It embodies generosity, consideration, affection, gentleness and care. True kindness is sincere, authentic and courageous.

How can we practice kindness?

We can practice kindness by being open to the people around us and looking for opportunities where a small caring and compassionate gesture could add a boost to someone’s day.

Noticing when others are suffering, genuinely celebrating other’s achievements and showing your appreciation to others are all ways of being kind. [3]

Importantly, kindness includes being kind to yourself. When your tank is full, you are able to share with others.

Kindness and its connection to Healing, Health and Happiness

According to Dr David Hamilton, (an advocate for and author of many books on kindness), acts of kindness create:

Healing:

Many studies suggest when we display kindness, we affect the vagus nerve which controls inflammation levels in the body. One study [4] that used the Tibetan Buddhist’s ‘Loving Kindness Compassion’ meditation found that kindness and compassion did, in fact, reduce inflammation in the body, most likely due to its effects on the vagus nerve. [5]

Health:

Research now shows that oxytocin (that we produce through emotional warmth stimulated through kindness) reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and so slows ageing. This also reduces the possibility for heart disease as oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels.

Kindness is also known to stimulate the production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone and lowering of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Medical journals also show that kindness leads to reduced pain, decreased anxiety levels and faster healing of wounds.

Happiness:

Kindness improves relationships. We all like people who show us kindness. When we are kind to each other we feel a connection and new relationships are forged, or existing ones strengthened. There has been much research showing that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated. [6]

Susan’s tips for spreading kindness like confetti:

  • Take a friend for a drive
  • Cook for family and friends
  • Listen and encourage
  • Give your time
  • A kind word
  • An invitation
  • Pay honest compliments

Kindness is infectious.  The act of kindness can change a mood, a situation and create a connection.  It is infectious and creates a ripple effect. I will leave you with the wise words of the Dalai Lama. “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

References:

[1] Retrieved November 7, 2020, from https://www.theworldkindnessmovement.org/about-us-2/

[2] Retrieved November 7, 2020, from https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/kindness-day/

[3] Hall, K. (2017). The Importance of Kindness. Retrieved November 7, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201712/the-importance-kindness

[4] Pace, T, Negi, L, Adame, D,  Cole, S, Sivilli, T, Brown, T,  Issa, M, and Raison, C. (2010). Effect of Compassion Meditation on Neuroendocrine, Innate Immune and Behavioral Responses to Psychosocial Stress. Retrieved November 7, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2695992/

[5] Hamilton, D. (2011). The 5 Side Effects of Kindness. Retrieved November 8, 2020, from https://drdavidhamilton.com/the-5-side-effects-of-kindness/

[6] Smith, E.(2014). Masters of Love. Retrieved November 7, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-everafter/372573/