Random acts of kindness, however small it may be, can transform the world. -Amit Ray
“Join us to make 2020 a year filled with kindness”. I read this statement from the Autism Speaks website earlier this year. This was to help spread kindness for people with autism. It was a bold and moving statement and it inspired me to initiate my own acts of kindness.
Around the same time, my son brought home a checklist. It was called "The Great Kindness Challenge". This is an initiative to prevent bullying and improve school climate by increasing student engagement.
The timing was perfect and I took it as a sign. After scanning the list, I have to admit, some of the challenges seemed awkward. But I was curious to find out what would happen.
I decided to craft my own challenge for 40 days. Just a few days after starting the random acts of kindness challenge, I experienced the immeasurable power of kindness for both giver and receiver. I also learned that it was anything but awkward.
RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS | HOW A SIMPLE ACT CAN MAKE A WORLD OF DIFFRENCE.
Before I talk about my 40 days of kindness, I want to get to the basics by answering some questions you may have.
What is kindness?
Merriam Webster defines kindness as the quality or state of being gentle and considerate. It might seem like a virtue for the meek, but I found that it requires courage and faith.
Why is it important to be kind?
Studies have shown that kindness for others is instinctual. Compassion for oneself and others boosts feelings of happiness and lasting well-being. It is no wonder that in the midst of the 2020 pandemic, random acts of kindness are popping up in numbers, despite the panicked behavior we've been witnessing.
What are the benefits of kindness?
According to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, there are scientifically proven benefits for acts of kindness.
Acts of kindness release oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a hormone, also known as the “love hormone”. Studies have shown that it relaxes the body, lowers blood pressure and promotes warm and fuzzy feelings in people.
A study, by Dr. Christine Carter at Greater Good Science Center in UC Berkeley, revealed that people felt stronger and more energetic after helping others.
Acts of kindness boost happiness.
Research has shown that almost all acts of kindness support happiness and well-being and has a positive chain reaction of kindness.
May increase lifespan.
A study of high blood cholesterol and heart health in rabbits in 1978 revealed a phenomena known as “The Rabbit Effect”. A researcher found that when she pet and spoke to the rabbits as she fed them, it meant the difference between a heart attack and a healthy heart.
According to a study done at Emory University, acts of kindness light up the pleasure and reward centers in the brain. This effect is known as “Helper's High”, making it addictive as well.
Research has shown that acts of kindness helps to release serotonin, a hormone in the brain. Serotonin promotes feelings of happiness and peace, which in turn supports immunity during times of stress.
WHAT I LEARNED AFTER 40 DAYS OF KINDNESS.
Acts of kindess take courage
I did not know if people would be receptive to my acts of kindness. This was especially true one morning while I went shopping soon after the state of California went on lockdown. People were snapping at each other for perceivably rude behavior and comments while they were shopping.
Grocery workers were understandably stressed, angry and worried. When I asked my cashier how her day was going, she hesitated for a minute. Then said it was not too bad today. She grinned when I wished her well and she wished me the same.
Acts of kindness are intentional
It is a choice to want to be kind to yourself and to other people, especially during times of stress. I have to admit that I couldn't see how carrying out acts of kindness would make a difference when fear seemed the most salient of emotions. Then I remembered how uplifting it felt to be kind for both the receiver and myself.
Acts of kindness can cause a chain reaction
Let's jump back to my story of the cashier at the grocery store. After I asked her how her day was going, the customer behind me must have overheard our conversation. He jokingly remarked that he was able to find some water and pointed to his bottle of Tequila. The 3 of us laughed heartily and I suddenly felt light.
The stress and tension from shopping was that much easier to bear. One might have thought we knew each other by the way we were talking, laughing, and wishing each other well. It was magical to observe how one act of kindness can spark more.
There are different types of kindness
Bestowing an act of kindness to yourself is as important as showing an act of kindness toward someone else. Later I discovered that witnessing an act of kindness also uplifts you.
One morning, my 10 year old made breakfast for his younger brother (my 3 year old). When I praised him for his random act of kindness, he grinned wide with cool composure and gave me 2 thumbs up. It was a small act of kindness, yet I felt profound joy because he took the initiative to help someone besides himself without being asked.
We crave acts of kindness in times of adversity and stress
There are more and more stories in the news of people engaging in acts of kindness during the pandemic. Essential employees and health care professionals make the decision everyday to go out to work because it is their duty. One man who was laid off from his job at Knott's Berry Farm made hundreds of face shields from his garage to donate to health care workers.
Neighbors are helping one another out by leaving food and essential items on doorsteps. Social media sites are encouraging acts of kindness in feeds, posts and tweets. Even celebrities are broadcasting their acts of kindness at no cost to viewers.
Related article: An act of kindness | Lessons from an Uber driver
During these stressful times, random acts of kindess are useful because they not only lift our spirits but our overall health and well-being. It takes courage to show kindness and it doesn't have to cost a thing. A simple thank you note on your door or positive message on your sidewalk and cause a chain reaction of kindness. It takes courage and intention but might make someone else's day.
Thanks for reading and please share your stories of acts of kindness.