We are living in difficult and uncertain times. Covid-19 has left an indelible mark on world history. From the virus itself to social distancing laws and the impact on the economy and local business, our way of life has taken a hit. And still, we must remain mindful and cautious, insecure too in the knowledge that the Coronavirus could return in a second wave attack on our cities and communities.
How do we cope as individuals? Some take whatever life challenges in their stride. Others become stressed and intolerant and there are those that suffer depression or become isolated and withdrawn. Regardless of wherever we fit on the personality profile spectrum, we are united. We share utilities, commodities, space, thoughts and actions, experiences, words, love....the list goes on.
It is also a given that life is infinitely more pleasant if we all get along, if we value our friendships, increase our awareness of the beauty that surrounds us, listen more and in particularly, savour the happy times.
Living happily too means sharing our community, happily and generously. It can be as simple as sharing our footpaths, our roads, our parking areas, queues, shopping centre aisles or endeavouring to maintain the required Covid-19 social distancing laws.
We have all experienced those that walk two or three abreast on walkways, oblivious to the on-coming pedestrians or those trying to pass. There are the conversations between two or more people completely blocking passage. Then there are those who barge with abandon or loudly scream "move" to shock a reaction. On our highways, there are the drivers who tailgate and lean on their horns so as to dominate and scare, there's the inconsiderate drivers who remain in the passing lane and the speedsters who weave in and out of lanes and put everyone else at risk.
Some folk simply yield, or stand aside and give space to those rushing by or politely and respectfully ask to pass.
Many everyday happenings are labelled as "rage" which most often occurs between people who have previously never met. Given that there is no predetermined intention to cause stress in another, simply reducing speed to read signs, regather directions, being over cautious or befuddled, to just making a mistake are enough to cause rage in another. As human beings, imperfection is our most common characteristic and we are always going to make mistakes. Understanding that, we need to practise tolerance.
Being aware of our surroundings, of others, our differences, our goodness begets understanding and tolerance and above all motivates kindness. If we practised kindness, there would be no rage.
Did you know that acts of kindness boost your mood to lowering stress? The power of kindness is scientifically proven; kindness is greater for the giver than the receiver, so helping others is helping yourself, too. Kindness has a ripple effect, love spreads both ways; it's a win-win situation.
Yesterday, I noticed an elderly lady hauling shopping bags and clearly struggling to reach her car. Her face lit up with joy when I offered a hand. She was clearly touched someone had noticed and made the effort to assist. I too walked away with a spring in my step and smile on my face.
Calvin Holbrook, freelance writer and editor for happiness.com writes "Science and studies show that being kind and helpful clearly has a positive and uplifting effect on those carrying out the act. But what exactly is happening in the body when you help someone out? Here are four ways keys in which the physical benefits of kindness can be felt.
1. Kindness releases feel-good hormones
When you do kinds acts for other people, so-called happiness hormones are released, boosting your serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being and satisfaction. Endorphin levels also rise, leading to a phenomenon known as a "helpers high" (just like what I experienced).
2. Kindness can reduce anxiety
Another physical benefit of kindness is that it can help to lower anxiety. Social anxiety is associated with low positive affect (PA), which relates to an individual's experience of positive moods such as joy, interest, and alertness.
3. Kindness may help alleviate certain illness
Inflammation in the body is linked to numerous health problems including chronic pain, diabetes, obesity and migraines. For older generations at least, volunteering as an act of kindness may be of benefit to reduce inflammation.
Additionally, oxytocin, also released with acts of kindness, reduces inflammation, and it can directly affect the chemical balance of your heart. According to Dr. David Hamilton, "oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a 'cardioprotective' hormone."
4. Kindness can reduce your stress levels
"Helping others takes you out of your own mind and can potentially help to build relationships with other people. Anything that helps you to build bonds with other people is known as affiliative behaviour."
Furthermore, once we establish an 'affiliative connection' with someone - a relationship of friendship, love, or other positive bonding - we feel emotions that can boost our immune system. So, it seems continued altruism can boost your happiness and improve relationships and connections, in turn indirectly boosting your health.
So, knowing this, why aren't people benefiting from the power of kindness? Why aren't more people making a conscious effort to change the lives of others," said Calvin Holbrook.
In our busy lives, empathy, kindness and compassion are often overtaken by self-interest. People don't seem to take the time to care, to lend a helping hand or to even notice what's going on around them, as too often we are wrapped up in our own lives.
There are those that believe that showing kindness and compassion may be construed as weakness and could lead to being taken advantage of. The truth is however, it's in our human DNA to show kindness. In fact, we're the only mammals with an extended gestation period compared to other animals that rely on support for a short period before becoming self-reliant. Humans depend on the care of our caregivers to provide our needs. So knowing that kindness is fundamental to our existence, we're literally wired for it.
Kindness is something that we can all strive to achieve. It doesn't demand hard work or huge amounts of time or energy. Kindness is not a gift to us but a gift that we can give to others and with all the good things that come with kindness, why wouldn't we want to help each other?
Highland FM 107.1
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