Have you noticed how many more acts of kindness are taking place at the moment? We see the amazing work being done by nurses, doctors and carers. People are shopping for vulnerable neighbours, communities are coming together to support each other, and friends are finding new ways to reach out and provide comfort.
The Physical Benefits of Kindness
Our brains are hard-wired for kindness. When you act kindly towards another person, that person benefits from it and your brain rewards you by releasing the hormone oxytocin into your blood stream. Oxytocin helps wounds to repair by aiding capillary growth. It protects the cardiovascular system by reducing blood pressure and clearing blood vessels of inflammation.
Couples in long-term relationships who are kind to each other have less hardening of the arteries than couples who are not kind. They are literally more ‘soft-hearted’.
Kindness is contagious.
There is a measure for understanding how contagious an epidemic is. It that is used by epidemiologists. It is known as R0, pronounced R-naught, and measures now many people an average person with the virus infects. The R0 of Covid 19 is currently measured at between 2 and 2.5. That means that the average patient infects at least 2 other people.
There have been studies on the contagiousness of kindness and the R0 figure is estimated at 5. That means that each act of kindness gives rise to 5 more acts of kindness. And it doesn’t stop there because your act of kindness flows out through three degrees of separation. In other words, the person you are kind to (one degree) is then likely to be kind to someone else (two degrees) and that person will be kind to someone you have never met (three degrees).
So kindness travels out in positive waves. It is potentially more powerful than this virus. Let’s find more ways to spread kindness.
Be Kind to Yourself
Kindness begins with you and how you look after yourself. You know that saying ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’?
- Be compassionate. Acknowledge your emotions without judging yourself. If you notice self-critical thoughts, let them pass. Say something positive to yourself such as ‘I am good enough. I am doing great. Keep going’. Talk to yourself in a kindly tone of voice.
- Eat well. Boost your immune system by eating a balanced diet including lean protein, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. Avoid highly processed foods such as sugar, white flour and white pasta. Limit your consumption of stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol.
- Exercise Daily. Take advantage of your opportunity to get out once a day for a walk. If you have a garden it’s a great time to be out there in the ‘green gym’. Take part in online exercise programmes. Use an electronic exercise machine such as the WiiFit.
- Have Regular Good Sleep. Keep to a sleep routine by going to bed and getting up at a set time. Make sure your bedroom is a sleep haven by removing electronic equipment such as lap tops and smart phones. Go to sleep in a good mood by watching or reading something funny. Don’t watch or listen to news bulletins after 6pm.
- Meditate. If you are not used to meditating start by sitting comfortably and focusing on your breathing for 3 minutes every morning. Gradually increase your quiet time to 10 minutes a day or more. Try using a meditation or mindfulness app. Join an online meditation group.
Be Kind to Others
- Connect. Even though you can’t visit people there are lots of ways that you can connect with friends and neighbours. You can chat over the phone or using the variety of online options such as Skype, Zoom, and Messenger
- Send a message. It is always good to receive a positive message. You could write a text or send a letter or card. How wonderful to receive a beautiful or funny card through the post.
- Smile. Smiling at someone in a shop or as you talk to the on line prompts their brain to release serotonin and oxytocin into their blood stream bringing beneficial emotional affects. Even if you are wearing a face mask, people can see your eyes smiling.
- Say thank you. Expressing gratitude is such a simple way of being kind. Say it to delivery people, shop staff, neighbours, nurses – whoever you come into contact with. Before you go to sleep at night send out waves of gratitude to everyone you know.
I am currently broadcasting every weekday at 2:15pm on my Facebook Page. Join me there for breathing techniques and tips for dealing with stress, anxiety and poor sleep.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, contact me and let’s talk about how I can help you feel better and back in control quickly.
Hamilton, David R., Why Kindness is Good For You, Hay House, London 2010
J H Fowler and N A Chistakis ‘Cooperative behaviour cascades in human social networks’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010, 107 (12)