I have just finished Goldie Hawn’s excellent book 10 Mindful Minutes – a summary of the Hawn Foundation’s educational MindUp program, but written for parents with easy-to-follow steps that they can share with their children.
Our children are overwhelmed, stressed, and overstimulated, and the need for solutions that simultaneously promote their social and emotional skills, mental health, and academic performance is more critical than ever. ~ Goldie Hawn
As with the very successful MindUp program, this book covers topics such as being mindful (mindful breathing, sensing and thinking), the importance of gratitude, kindness and optimism. Research conducted in Vancouver has shown that by focussing on these topics, and incorporating resesarch-proven techniques and activities, one can improve interpersonal relationships, increase performance through better concentration and lead emotionally healthier lives.
Where Does Kindness Come From?
Kindness comes from being able to empathize with another person and see things from his or her perspective. From these thoughts of empathy and perspective-taking, one puts compassion into action which demonstrates kindness and caring. When I meet with children who have high levels of anxiety, I also talk to them about their levels of sensitivity and sure enough, there is a strong correlation. I point out that because they have high levels of sensitivity, they are able to be more aware of other’s feelings as well as their own, and therefore often show higher levels of empathy. Being sensitive, caring, and empathic are important qualities that often lead to careers in the caring professions. It is our mirror neurons that give us the ability to to imagine how another person is feeling, as well as see physically how someone is feeling. We can strengthen our mirror neuron circuitry by literally practicing helping others, the more acts of kindness we perform the more we grow our brain’s ability to care.
Kindness begets kindness
What Are the Mental Health Benefits of Being Kind?
Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky found that by performing five small acts of kindness/week, particularly a variety of them all in one day, can boost our moods. Dopamine levels raise in the brain and activate the brain’s pleasure centers. We are stimulated immediately but the effects also last over time. According to a study at Cornell University, helping others increases energy, self-esteem, and a sense of mastery over life. Researchers at Harvard, found kindness boosts our immune system. Cynical research participants watching a video of Mother Teresa, showed increased levels of T cells. Allan Luks, author of The Healing Power of Doing Good found kindness reduces feelings of depression, lessens hostility and isolation, increases optimism, increases joy, and builds resilience. Wow! Not only do random acts of kindness make the person receiving the kindness feel good, but think of the benefits for the person performing the random acts of kindness!
In Goldie Hawn’s book she recommends two activities which promote kindness:
1) The Kindness Game: Plan as a family to do three acts of kindness per day. Brainstorm ideas such as helping a friend, cheering up someone who’s having a bad day, giving someone a compliment etc. At dinner time, in the car, or at bed-time share with each other what kind acts you performed. How do they think it made the other person feel and how did it make them feel. Brainstorm more kind acts that they can continue to do.
2) The Paper Chain of Kindness: Make a family paper chain where you each write down your acts of kindness, loop them together and see how long the paper chain grows. This would also be a great activity to do in a classroom.
At the Live Extraordinary Live event that I mentioned last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Vancouverite Brock Tully. He is the author of many beautiful books including some which are a collection of inspirational quotes such as “I always love to see you but don’t have to see you to always love you”. I received one of his quotation books when I was in my 20′s so it was a wonderful experience to meet him 20 years later. He is an incredible man who has cycled around North America (three times!) promoting kindness in schools and to groups.
He now has a music show called Kindness Rocks which he is bringing to schools to spread this important message. I am looking forward to hearing more about his projects and experiences. He is the founder of the World Kindness Concert (at the 11th annual event, held in Vancouver, there were 1400 people in attendance). He is co-founder of the Kindness Foundation of Canada and co-founder of the Kindness Rocks in Schools anti-bullying program. At the Live Extraordinary Live event, he shared his story of how he was once depressed but now lives a joyful life focussed on kindness.
To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world – Author unknown
Have a wonderful week, experiencing the benefits of random acts of kindness,
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