Even if all you can manage is a smile through your mask or holding the door open for someone, a little bit of kindness goes a long way.
Our collective isolation has left us emotionally deprived. Humans are social creatures (yes, even introverts), and the lack of regular connection since March is taking its toll. Random acts of kindness remind us that we are all in this together, we are not alone, and we are all human. Although we are each going through COVID differently, our shared experience unites us. It is for that reason that we must remind ourselves to treat people the way we would like to be treated. Practicing empathy and understanding will go a long way this winter, and you never know who may need it most.
The effects of being kind to others does not only benefit the recipient, it has proven scientific benefits for the giver. It has to do with the boosted levels of oxytocin (the love chemical), dopamine (the feel-good chemical), and serotonin (the mood regulating neurotransmitter) when we do something nice for someone else. There are so many benefits to having an increased amount of these chemicals – physically, mentally, and socially. However, it’s not enough to occasionally coast on temporary ‘helper’s highs. To truly benefit from these increased chemical levels, it must become a habitual practice.
Kindness is absolutely contagious. Showing kindness inspires others to be kind, and therefore contributes to a better community. Creating cycles of kindness, or paying forward the kindness you are shown, is a concept that we can trace as far back as ancient Greece. If you’ve never heard the phrase before, paying it forward can be understood as relaying a good deed to others when one is done to you. In the Greek playwright Menander’s comedy Dyskolos (The Grouch), the characters speak on this theme, believing that “by acting nobly now, [you may] – in a future moment of need – benefit from someone else’s kindness” and that “a visible friend [is far better] than invisible wealth.”
We have a learned understanding that currency is a tangible thing, but what we often forget is that our most valued asset is our attention. Media corporations fight over it, tech companies pay to analyze it, and attempts are made (often successful), to manipulate and control it. When we choose to spend our attention on each other, 5 seconds here to compliment someone’s hair or 5 minutes there to brush the snow off of your co-worker’s car, we are sharing our emotional wealth.
When we pay attention to kindness, empathy, and understanding, we create an atmosphere that fosters that in others and enforces it in ourselves. These subtle acts of generosity can shift our perspectives away from what we don’t have this year, towards gratitude for what we do have. We are not suggesting that you try and forget the chaos around us but remember that there is beauty amidst it, that every individual has the capacity to create. We are all going through this together and we could all use a little positivity in these trying times.
So, in this year’s ‘Season of Giving’, remember kindness is the currency of the soul; so, give generously, love fiercely, and hope unsparingly.
HOW TO PRACTICE KINDNESS ON YOURSELF
- Give yourself a compliment.
- Treat yourself to your favourite Holiday drink.
- Pamper yourself with a DIY spa day.
- Treat yourself as you’d treat a friend.
- Let yourself make mistakes.
- Recognize you are always growing and learning and be patient with yourself as you do.
- Express gratitude.
- Be mindful in your self-compassion.
HOW TO PRACTICE KINDNESS ON OTHERS
- Give someone a compliment.
- Write a letter to someone.
- Have a friendly phone chat with someone.
- Write a positive review for a local business.
- If you can, help someone with outdoor work (shoveling driveways, putting up Christmas lights, etc.)
- Treat service people with extra respect.
For a Cost:
- Pay for the next person in line.
- Support local businesses.
- Donate to a charity of your choice.
- Sponsor a Good Food Box
- Tip the people delivering to and serving you.
- Leave loose change at the Laundromat.