From the time we are little, our mothers and grandmothers teach us to be kind to others and obey the golden rule: do unto others as we would have them do to us. Kindness is being helpful, generous, and considerate with no expectation for that to be returned.
Kindness is not just another buzzword in February, or something your grandmother told you to do. On February 17, the country will celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day, a day in which we remember to do for others selflessly. Kindness is contagious, and it just takes one random act to ignite a desire in others to do the same.
The Science of Kindness
Kindness is not always easy to define. Yet we all seem to know what kindness is. We can recognize when a person shows kindness to us or others, and we know what being unkind is. So why is kindness hard to define?
Here is what we do know. Kindness is a selfless act. If you do something expecting something in return, your action is transactional and cannot be considered kindness. Kindness can only be an action that expects no compensation.
We also cannot just be kind when we are at our best. Sometimes we lose our steam and our energy stores are depleted by life. But like our mothers taught us, we cannot stop being kind and treat others disrespectfully, even during our downturns.
The Royal College of General Practitioners medical school in Wales carries as its motto, Cum Scientia Caritas, or scientific knowledge applied with compassion. Caritas, in particular, is defined as open-heartedness or generosity of spirit demonstrated through caring. That is kindness, opening oneself up fully and making oneself vulnerable in order to help another person who needs it.
Facts About Kindness, Health, and Happiness
One of the most fascinating aspects of life on planet earth is that no matter the species, we all want to build a community of support for ourselves. Humans are no exception to this desire. That is why we greet strangers, hold open the door for people we do not know, and buy fundraiser products to support children in our local communities.
But did you know that kindness can be taught? Researchers have found that sometimes people who are out of practice with kindness need to exercise it, like a muscle. We can forget how to be kind, but the good news is that we can relearn it.
Kindness is also contagious. Do you remember how we mentioned that being kind causes your brain to release dopamine and serotonin, improving your mood? Well, this also happens when you witness someone being kind or receiving kindness, showing we can be happy for others receiving kindness even when we do not receive it ourselves!
Kindness is good for your health and can even make you live longer. Scientific studies have shown that people who are kind and give of themselves have fewer body aches, less heart disease, and live longer.
The Benefits of Kindness
Even though kindness is a selfless act, practicing kindness has many benefits to our physical and mental health. Yes, you heard that right! Being kind to others can be healing and comforting to the mind and body.
Exhibiting kindness has been shown to increase self-esteem, as well as feelings of empathy toward others. Kindness can also increase feelings of connectedness with one’s community and the people around them.
Kindness is also good for your heart. Studies show that being kind and receiving kindness can decrease your blood pressure. It can also lower the levels of cortisol in your blood, reducing the amount of stress you feel and improving your cardiovascular health.
Being kind also causes changes in your brain. When you are kind or receiving kindness from others, the brain increases the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. These give you a sense of satisfaction and an overall positive sense of well-being.
Compassion and Empathy in Addiction Recovery
Kindness plays a key role in addiction treatment and recovery. If you are reading this as an alumnus of Renaissance Ranch, you are lucky to have a kind and supportive care team during your treatment and transition.
But not everyone who seeks substance use treatment is treated with kindness. Providers who exhibit negative behaviors like rejection and disdain can derail a person from seeking meaningful treatment for addiction.
We can all be a beacon of kindness and hope for friends and loved ones who still struggle with substance use. By being kind and understanding, we can make up a little for the unkindness our loved ones may experience. In fact, it may make a difference in the success and outcomes of their treatment and recovery.
Kindness also affects relapse. Not only do people who relapse need to be treated with compassion and respect, but self-compassion and self-kindness are factors in whether or not relapse happens. In recovery, we have to be able to forgive others and forgive ourselves, getting right back on the horse and soldiering on.
How to Find Your Inner Strength Through Kindness
Spreading kindness is not hard. It can be a simple smile that you give to a stranger passing by. It can be a phone call you make to a friend who needed to hear a compassionate word today. It may even be the coins you give to the down-on-their-luck person on the street.
When you express kindness through your actions, you are speaking louder than the loudest shout in a sports coliseum. The benefits come back to you, like a homerun ball you catch in the stands and, like catching that ball, the memory of kindness will follow you throughout the rest of your life.
When February rolls around, most of us start anticipating Valentine’s Day, that perennial holiday of love. But February is not just a month of romantic love. As Spring approaches, it heralds a month of renewal. Did you know that February 17, 2023, is Random Acts of Kindness Day? Showing and receiving kindness to others has been scientifically linked to a myriad of health benefits. Science tells us that seeing others be kind releases oxytocin, the brain’s “love hormone”, which increases energy and may even increase lifespan. It also releases the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can help reduce symptoms of depression! Call Renaissance Ranch at (801) 308-8898 and learn how to get involved in helping yourself and your fellow man.