In these challenging times, Kindness is the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. The Mental Health Foundation say, “We have chosen kindness because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity. It is a cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health. Wisdom from every culture across history recognises that kindness is something that all human beings need to experience and practise to be fully alive.“
We’ve all experienced being on the receiving end of an act of kindness; a stranger smiles as they hold the door open; a driver creates space to let you out of a junction, or a colleague buys you coffee. Although kindness can sometimes seem superficial, it can also be powerful, inspiring and transformative. In any given moment, the kindness you offer affects what comes after. As Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, said, “Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
Like mindfulness itself, kindness is a natural human quality that needs intentional practice to realise its potential. And research shows that kindness is good for our health and well-being. Studies show that thinking about, observing or practising a kind act stimulates the vagus nerve, which literally warms up the heart and is closely connected to the brain’s receptor networks for oxytocin, the hormone involved in maternal bonding. Kindness also triggers the release of dopamine, the hormone associated with positive emotions and the sensation of a natural high. Kindness is proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and can literally put us, and others, at ease. Kindness can work wonders in the relationships we have with ourselves and with everyone we encounter. There’s also a recent study that found good evidence that people who practise kindness tend to be much happier.
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