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Twelve Random Acts of Kindness
Lesley McCall Christmas 2018
12 Random Acts of Kindness
We all know what Christmas can actually be like… the pressure of perfection, of pleasing everyone but yourself, one-up-manship, pretending that the knitted socks with 6 toes from Aunty Mabel is exactly what you have been spending all year hoping for and all the while, fending off the effects of too much food and far too much alcohol. Welcome to the season of hypocrisy, showing off, talking twaddle and trying to live up to all those ‘shoulds’.
So how about having the Christmas of everyone’s dreams (no, not the one where the person of your dreams turns up to drive you away in your new Porsche), I mean the Christmas that appears on all the cards – filled with love and happiness. Make this Christmas an opportunity to fill your life with the true spirit of Christmas which can spread into next year, filling it with kindness.
All this year, I have wittered on about the advantages of random acts of kindness and how we should all do them as often as we can.
So, at the end of this year, I thought I’d do a summery of all the benefits, both mental and physical, including all the science bits!
The mental positives from a therapy point of view are obvious – thinking about how to make other people happy and giving to other people give us a boost of happiness (look how miserable Scrooge was before he became generous and how happy afterwards). It makes us more positive. Looking for opportunities to be kind to people helps us to be outward looking, to focus on something nice, rather than our own inner misery. So much research has been done on how random acts of kindness can improve all sorts of problems including depression.
Kindness is Attractive
Somebody who makes an effort to be kind for no reason, with no agenda, is going to be an attractive person to be around, will probably fit in better socially and will generate a positive attitude. All of which will benefit the person themselves – it’s win win all round.
It makes sense that kindness gives you that happiness boost and improves your mood which, in turn, lowers stress and anxiety and enhances calm. Calmer people have more energy and clarity of thinking. If you don’t believe that something as simple as a random act of kindness can be so powerful, try googling the research – if you have time … there is loads of it.
The RAK organisation also has a lot of data about how random acts of kindness can improve our physical health and even help us to live longer! Wow! A survey of people who volunteered was conducted and even allowing for variables such as lifestyle, nutrition, etc., it was found that they lived longer. Not only that, but when you are kind, your brain’s pleasure and reward center lights up – it’s called ‘helpers high’. So, not only do you live longer, but you live on a naturally-induced high!
The Feel Good Factor
This emotional warmth releases feelgood chemicals such as serotonin and oxytocin which releases nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels which lowers blood pressure. Not forgetting the brains natural pain killer, endorphins, which are also produced when we are kind and helps us feel happier in ourselves as well as helping with pain. Pain like depression tends to make people inward-focussing and miserable, so it makes sense that changing that, even in a small way, will help. Oxytocin also increases self-esteem and oxygen, so anything that increases it’s levels in the body is worth doing. Don’t forget that the mind and body are linked irrevocably and what you do effects both.
A RAK a day also keeps those colds at bay! Stress lowers our immunity so anything that lowers stress improves resistance to illness. So, this winter as the weather gets colder, up your kindness quotient (but don’t be mean in summer!!). Also, lowering stress and anxiety balances our cortisol levels, which improve energy levels – again very needed over Christmas!
As a therapist, I can see the difference in people’s attitude as the anxiety and stress fall away and there are many ways to facilitate this. When people first come in, they are often miserable, inward-looking and stuck. One of the ways that helps is to give them a focus outside of themselves – goals and targets to reach. Doing a random act of kindness falls into this category – a positive way of distracting them from their misery. I often suggest that they volunteer to do something altruistic as a way of helping them move forward. It ticks several boxes for happiness – new people, the mood boost when you are kind, being part of a new group with a joint goal, and not forgetting the ‘helpers high’!
Finally, it is important to teach our children to be kind – showing them and supporting them as they grow and learn how to interact in a kind way to each other. This not only increases their feeling of well-being, but reduces bullying which is becoming such an increasing problem. Via the children, we can spread kindness like a contagion.
So, if you haven’t switched off because of all the science then I hope you are busy planning your next random act of kindness. In order to help you, I have ideas of some you can do for every day of the twelve days of Christmas and if you enjoy them, why not continue into next year by making your New Year’s resolution to do a random act of kindness every day?
To start you off here are the twelve random acts of kindness over Christmas:
- Repay spite with kindness. Unkind people are often unhappy people.
- Thank someone for unwanted advice. Irritating as it can be, often it may be someone who simply wants to win some approval.
- Take somebody’s children off their hands for a few hours. At Christmas, mums are under immense pressure.
- Buy a homeless person a cup of hot chocolate and a muffin (as well as buying The Big Issue off them).
- Spend a few hours giving people sincere smiles – even if you are having a bad day, try to improve other people’s.
- Do the shopping for an elderly person or take them to church on Christmas Day, even if you aren’t going.
- Walk a rescue dog over Christmas – give it some love.
- Invite someone to dinner over the Christmas period – someone who might be lonely
- Buy an extra present and donate it.
- Contribute to a food bank.
- Let go of a grudge over the Christmas period and give someone the benefit of the doubt.
- Listen to someone, even if it bores you – and really listen.
These are just ideas – please feel free to be inventive in your kindness and above all – be kind to yourself too at Christmas. Have a lovely time and I hope next year is your best and kindest yet.