Why it's always the season for kindness
Kindness towards yourself, including self-love, is one of the most important things to learn as a human being because it is the root of other types of love. When a person doesn’t love who they are, they cannot give love to others or receive love from others to the fullest extent.
Loving yourself inherently nurtures acts of kindness towards yourself because it gives you the confidence and belief that you are not only ‘loveable’, but also that you can love and be kind to others in its truest, most humble form.
But for so many adults, particularly women, loving and being kind to ourselves is an extremely difficult habit to create, especially in contrast to being kind to others.
People naturally feel good when they give, help or serve others because they experience something called ‘helper’s high‘; a feeling of exhilaration and burst of energy, similar to the endorphin-based euphoria experienced after intense exercise, followed by a period of calmness and serenity.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that acts of kindness have a positive effect on the immune system and increases production of serotonin in the brain, for both the recipient of kindness as well as the person extending the kindness. Serotonin is a naturally occurring neurochemical that has a calming, mood regulating, and anti-anxiety effect, which most anti-depressant drugs chemically stimulate the production of, with the aim to alleviate depression.
Recent research has also found that people who observe an act of kindness also experience a similar strengthening of the immune system, and increased production of serotonin.
What’s even more amazing is that acts of self-love and kindness towards one’s self have the same positive effects as a result of increased serotonin; more specifically, a reduction in stress and anxiety levels due to being less fearful of being rejected by others.
But the benefits of kindness don’t just stop there.
Research has shown that those who routinely engage in acts of both inward and outward kindness, such as volunteers, experience alleviation of stress, chronic pain, and even insomnia. In some people, these effects are stronger than exercising four times a week or going to church!
Considering the abundance of proof that acts of kindness:
- – increase one’s sense of self-worth
- – enhance feelings of joyfulness
- – boost one’s sense of physical and emotional wellbeing
- – increase sense of happiness and optimism
- – decrease feelings of depression
- – diminish the effect of diseases and disorders
…the best thing we can do is find opportunities to extend kindness, and teach others to do the same. How very different the world would be!
10 Simple Ways to Extend Kindness to Others
- 1. Smile at strangers… especially those who are having a bad day
- 2. Volunteer your time to do charity work or help wherever there’s need
- 3. Cover someone’s lunch bill
- 4. Give compliments often
- 5. Give up your place in line to another person
- 6. Donate blood
- 7. Write a thank-you note, especially to someone who’s not expecting thanks
- 8. Give your seat up for someone else on a crowded train or bus
- 9. Pick up 5 pieces of rubbish next time you’re out on a walk
- 10. Invite a lonely friend, neighbour or family member over for dinner
And always keep your eyes peeled to observe another person’s random act of kindness, to spur on more acts of good in yourself.
Kindness is as contagious as laughter!
The Self-Compassion Pause
This exercise a powerful tool to improve your ability to be kind to yourself. Although it promotes self-confidence and resilience, the ‘Self-Compassion Pause’ can be very challenging and confronting for parents that already struggle with showing themselves compassion and kindness, even though you are ever-so-quick to extend compassion to others.
- 1. When you find yourself stressed out in a difficult situation, take a moment to pause
- 2. Reach up and touch your heart, or give yourself a hug if you are comfortable with that
- 3. Take a few deep breaths
- 4. Acknowledge that you are suffering and see if you can treat yourself with as much kindness as you would a dear friend or your child who was struggling
- 5. Say out loud 3 phrases of compassion:
- a) first, acknowledge your suffering — “This is really painful/difficult right now” or “Wow, I am really suffering right now!”
- b) second, acknowledge that all humans suffer and struggle — “Suffering is a part of being human”
- c) finally, offer yourself compassion — “May I love and accept myself just as I am” or “May I remember to treat myself with love and kindness”
- 6. Return to your daily activities, intentionally carrying an attitude of self-compassion and acceptance to your day
The last step may be the most difficult, it is also the most important one!
10 Simple Ways to Extend Kindness to Yourself
All of the following tips are extended on within other articles on this website, as well as in the ‘More Than A Mum’ book:
- 1. Carve out regular pockets of quality ‘me’ time
- 2. Nourish your body and brain
- 3. Move your body regularly
- 4. Engage in regular stress management and maintenance techniques
- 5. Reconnect with nature
- 6. Practice heartfelt gratitude daily
- 7. Invest in good quality sleep
- 8. Define your goals and dreams
- 9. Reward yourself regularly, even for small achievements
- 10. Talk to yourself like you would your own child or best friend