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World Kindness Day: Why being kind is good for us

My 14 year-old nephew won a school prize the other day. Not for his athletic accomplishments, or his academic grades. But for simply being kind. I’ve always known my nephew was kind and thoughtful from a very young age, and it’s wonderful that his school recognises the significance of this trait. I’m so proud of him and hope that he will always stay true to himself and his ability to be kind and empathic.

Although he may not know it, my nephew will reap many health and well-being benefits from being kind. Because being kind is good for us.

Many studies show how our health benefits, both physically and mentally. Our happiness and success levels also increase. Another huge pay-off is that our relationships also improve.

With the aim of spreading the news, World Kindness Day is today, 13th November.

Being kind for some may well mean big gestures of giving, but kindness is something we can all bring more of into our everyday lives.

Seemingly small acts of kindness towards others can have a positive impact on you, as well as on those at the receiving end. Being kind releases hormones associated with emotional warmth. This literally creates a “feel-good” factor.

We can all take small steps towards being kinder, and at the same time, become healthier. Offer a word of support to somebody who’s having a hard time, offer to help a colleague who’s struggling with a deadline, phone somebody you haven’t spoken to in a while, send a kind text. The list is endless!

Starting with ourselves is a good place to begin practicing kindness. We all know how it feels to give ourselves a hard time – “I could have done better”, “why did I say that?”, “I’m fat/not good enough/etc.” Our self-critical voice often speaks up rather than our self-compassionate voice. These self-critical thoughts can create anxiety, stress, low self-esteem and perhaps lead to depression if left unchecked.

Like anything that we need to learn, self-compassion or loving kindness, is a practice. The good news is that we can train our minds to change the message to a more positive one.

How would you speak to a good friend or someone you love? What advice would you give a friend if they were saying the things that are flying around in your head? Would you speak to someone else the way you speak to yourself? Of course you wouldn’t! It’s easy to be kind, offering supportive or compassionate words or love to other people, but it’s not so easy to do this for ourselves.

How can you begin treating yourself with kindness and compassion?

Pay attention to your thoughts. Often our negative thoughts are like an auto-pilot reaction, and we don’t even realise we are having them (or so many of them!). Each time a negative thought comes, try saying “here’s a negative/critical/anxious/difficult thought” – giving it a label, recognising it for what it is, can help it dissolve. This is mindfulness.

Stop torturing yourself. We all know how it feels to give ourselves a hard time – “I could have done better”, “why did I say that?" "I'm terrible at ...." etc”. There is no such thing as perfection! Instead of saying you’re not good enough, commit to improve a particular area of your life or to create healthier habits. The power is in you!

Managing a difficult thought. There’s a saying I’ve come across a lot in the context of mindfulness, “What we resist persists”. Mindfulness says, “what we accept, transforms”. When you notice a self-critical or other difficult thought arise, take a few deep breaths into your belly, notice where you feel any tension or sensation in your body. You may say “I feel tightness in my chest/belly/throat etc” or whatever it is you feel, wherever you feel it. Then

say to yourself a few times “it’s just a worry/stressful/difficult thought”, take another 5 deep breaths. This allows the thought to arise, and to be recognised, with kindness and compassion. It’s easier for it to move on then rather than lead to further stressful thoughts.

Be your own best friend. Be your own cheerleader. Give yourself a break. Be kind to yourself.

What happens when we start being kinder to ourselves?

On a physical level, our biochemistry changes, creating hormones which protect our heart, boost our immune system and regulate our digestive system. The stress levels in the body which were raised during negative thinking drop back to normal. This in itself makes way for so many body and mind benefits, including better sleep, greater focus and concentration, more energy, and a healthier weight.

Emotionally, negative thinking over time can lead to symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Relationships with others are also improved when we start being softer, less judgmental with ourselves, as well as with others.

Being kind to ourselves, I believe, is the most important place to begin the art of practising kindness. Once we treat ourselves with kindness, it’s so much easier to treat others the same way!

The bottom line is being kind means a happier, healthier and more successful life. My nephew has made a great start.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article, and perhaps gained a new insight or perspective. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment or get in touch. I would love to hear from you!

Article by Kerry White

Kerry is a Workplace Health & Wellbeing Facilitator, Speaker, Holistic Coach, Yoga Teacher & Shiatsu Therapist and the founder of Kerry Wellbeing.

Kerry specialises in workplace sessions to help people feel as well as possible, physically & mentally. Through practical and collaborative sessions, Kerry equips people in the workplace with effective tools and insights to help them deal positively with everyday stress, challenges and common health and well-being complaints (including backache, headaches, fatigue and anxiety).

Kerry has brought her unique health & wellbeing sessions to numerous top corporates and organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO). Because she has spent many years working in pressured office-based roles, Kerry understands the challenges many people experience, both physically and mentally.

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