The importance of treating others with kindness has very much been at the forefront of the new recently. At A Year Of Small Changes we have been trying to stress how much kindness matters.
Much of this is due to the recent tragic death of Caroline Flack. As a singer, dancer and presenter, she was well known across the generations from young kids to the elderly.
Weeks ago, I arranged to go into my children’s school to chat to the Primary 3 and 4 kids about how being Kind is good for our Wellbeing.
The date fell a few days after news broke about Caroline. It was clear that what had happened had had a massive impact on both the teachers and the kids who knew her from shows such as Britain’s Got Talent.
The kids totally got the message of how easy could be to spread kindness rather than sadness or negativity. If we just take a few minutes to think about what we do or say before we take action.
The take home message of the day was clear:
KINDNESS MATTERS. TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD WANT TO BE TREATED YOURSELF.
I left the kids with the challenge of finding small ways to spread kindness around the school and at home.
My lovely friend Lucie and her partner Charlie founders of ‘The Kindess Co-op’ supported me last week. They provided me with ‘kindness ambassador stickers’ to give the kids at the end of their project. (Find them on instagram @thekindnesscoop)
The kids already had some great ideas of how they were going to get started.
The following is a wee blog about the importance of being kind that I wrote last year. Hope it provides some food for thought.
My kids have just finished watching the movie ‘Wonder’ again. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a movie about a boy born with facial differences that. As a result he had been prevented from going to a mainstream school. The movie charts his journey through starting at his local elementary.
Auggie Pullman becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to discover their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey unites them.
One of the main messages of the movie is ‘if you have to choose between being right and being kind, choose kind.’
Kindness matters. Growing up, I was lucky to have lots of grown up around me who taught me the importance of being kind to others.
They spoke to be about the importance of ‘treating others the way you want to be treated’ but they also by led by example. The taught me about thinking of others first. From them I learned the value of sharing a smile or a chat on the bus. I saw them repeatedly going out of their way to do something nice for someone else.
When you look at little kids it’s clear to see than we, as humans, are biologically wired to be kind.
They hold out their hand to share their food-even if it is half chewed sometimes. They walk up to other kids and adults and smile with abandon.
Kids have the right idea
With positive role models, encouragement and a bit of practice we can really hone this ability as we grow. Furthermore, we can learn how to leave a positive mark on the people we encounter on a day to day basis.
Sometimes , perhaps due to the stresses of day to day living,or due to particularly stressful life events, we can become busy, distracted and a bit jaded.
This can lead to us forgetting to use, or losing, the inherent kindness skills we were born with. We have to keep reminding ourselves of the importance of being kind.
Kindness matters to us as a society.
If we, as a society, become more self involved and less thoughtful towards others you start to see a shift in communities where more and more people become more and more socially isolated. This leads to increased rates of anxiety, depression and stress which in turn often leads to people feeling less kind towards one another and so a vicious cycle begins.
You can see this in various situations.
Kindness matters at work.
In some work environments, people rarely communicate face to face. They stick to their own jobs and communicate via e mail. They lunch separately (often at their desk while on their phones) and do little to help each other out.
In other workplaces you can see staff looking out for one another and helping out where they can.
That may be as simple as making a cuppa for their colleague who has worked through their tea break. Or letting someone away early one day for an appointment or kids show.
Or what about actually stepping in and taking over some of the work load if they are snowed under? More often than not they will find the that the same kindness will be shown to them when they need it.
Not surprisingly, sickness rates and staff turnover rates have been shown to go down when people work in kind supportive environments.
It’s a Kind of Revolution
The concept of kindness being far more important that just something that makes people feel happy for a few brief moments is one that has been raised by many people over the last few years.
I am writing this blog a few days after ‘World Kindness Day’ and a few days before “World Hello Day.’ Here we ask people to consider being more mindful of connecting to those around them by saying hello to people you meet throughout your day.
Saying hello to someone, giving them even a few seconds of your attention and the warmth of your smile is a small act of kindness in itself.
From this we can move on to making stronger connections between ourselves and those around us.
We can incorporate small acts of kindness into our daily lives in the hope it will spur others onto passing that kindness on again.
This idea of one initial kind act setting of a cascade of kindness, among other things, is exactly what a Insitute in America has been set up to investigate.
The Bedari Kindness Institute
A new Institute at UCLA funded by a £16 million grant from philanthropists Jennifer and Matthew Harris, the Bedari Kindness Institute, has been established to “look into the psychology and biology of positive social interactions.”
The Director, Daniel Fessler, is interested in research into whether being kind or epxerincing acts of kindness can increase your lifespan.
His work was the subject of a great wee article in the BBC press this week.
Mr Fessler believes kindness is indeed ‘contagious’ and that kindness matters in terms of your lifespan.
He describes kindness as ‘the thoughts, feelings and beliefs associated with actions intended to benefit others’ with no agenda other that to do something nice for someone else.
Various projects are up and running at the institute headed by a variety of experts in the fields of sociology, anthropology and psychology.
Some of the projects include examining how kindness spreads between people. They also examine how to persuade people to act more kindly. Another area of interest is how kindness can boost your mood and reduce your risk of depression.
Lead by example
Many famous people have both made the news headlines over the last few months talking about kindness.
Ellen, Degeneres, Will Smith, Pink and Barak Obama have all spoken about the importance of being kind.
The most recent example is Barak Obama. While giving a eulogy of Veteran US Democrat Eilijah Cummings, he said:
“Being a strong man includes being kind. There’s nothing weak about kindness and compassion…There’s nothing weak about looking out for others. You’re not a sucker to have integrity and to treat others with respect.”
Ellen Degeneres recently made a statement on her social media about kindness.
When she ran into criticism from many of her LGBT fans for laughing and joking with ex president George W Bush she said:
‘Be kind to one another.’ “When I say ‘be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only to the people that think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone. It doesn’t matter.”
So, what do we know already about the science behind this theory?
One study looked at the positive effects of being kind in the workplace.
They looked at both personal progression in your career and work place productivity as a whole.
Results showed that kind people were more successful themselves. They also demonstrated that the general effect of kindness in the workplace made for a more efficient happier team.
We know that when we do something nice for someone else we get a release of feel good hormones including endorphins and serotonin.
Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being.
This has led to the phrase ‘helpers high’ being used to describe the feeling we get when we do something nice for someone else.
When we are involved in an exchange of kindness such as someone holding your hand of giving you a hug, another hormone called oxytocin is released.
This hormone causes a release of a chemical called nitric oxide which causes dilation of blood vessels which reduces blood pressure.
It’s know as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because this reduction in blood pressure helps protect the heart.
Kindness Matters: start your own cascade.
Helping others lets you focus on something outwith your own life.
So, even if your own life is stressful, doing something nice for others can both help you take a short break from that stress. Added to this, the positive hormonal changes that can help reduce your own stress. As can the knowledge you have done something nice for someone else.
There are lots of ways in which you can do something to help others or make them feel included.
We have used one of the kindness calendars below at home. They are a great wee idea to try with either the family or in the work place.
Looking out for other helps us to build our relationships with others.
A study on the effects of ‘pro social’ behaviour on stress found that ‘affilliate behaviour may be an important component of coping with stress. Engaging in actions intended to help others might be an effective strategy for reducing the impact of stress on emotional functioning.’
Connecting with others also helps build our self esteem and self confidence. This can can lead to an improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
As you can tell, I am a big believer in the power of kindness and firmly believe that kindness matters in all aspects of life.
I can see the positive effects being a bit more mindful of others has had both at my work and in my home life.
I firmly believe in that if we are all a little kinder to one another that kindness with grow and spread.
In this way we can make a difference to society on a wider scale.
The Kindness Co-op.
Someone who is keen to champion the kindness cause is a friend of mine from University called Lucie.
Lucie started a business with her friend Charlie in 2014 called ‘The Kindness Co-op’
Their aim is to promote kindness towards each other (especially amongst children), ourselves and the environment. They do this by encouraging people to perform more random acts of kindness.
I think their slogan ‘it’s a kind of revolution’ sums up my hopes for my kids future.
If we can all try and do something kind for someone else, perhaps someone we don’t know, this week, we can really get this revolution well on it’s way!
For more blogs discussing importance of kindness check out