The Power of Kindness
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." -- Maya Angelou
Serotonin is your friend. Serotonin is a hormone, and it is also called 5-hydroxytryptamine. It is found in the pineal gland, the digestive tract, and also the brain. think of Serotonin as a chemical messenger which transmits nerve signals between all of your nerve cells. Changes in the serotonin levels in the brain can alter your mood. When the levels of Serotonin go down, you become sad. When the levels of Serotonin goes up, you are happy. The more Serotonin, the happier you become. Serotonin is an endorphin that not only protects against things like depression, but it will also strengthen your immune system. It is the chemical messenger that provides you with that special ‘feel good’ effect. In-fact it is the single biggest “feel good” chemical in the human brain.
There have been several studies where they have shown a person an act of kindness, and then through brain scans it was revealed that the persons serotonin levels rose dramatically. They then looked deeper and found that when they measured the brain scans of the person who was offering the act of kindness, that surprisingly, they also had the same dramatic rise in serotonin levels. Simply stated what this means is that whenever you do an act of kindness, for example; send flowers to an old friend out of the blue… put a coin or two in an expired meter… say "please" and "thank you" and really mean it… pay the toll for the driver who is behind you… hold the door open for the next person when you’re in a elevator… lend a helping hand to stranger in need…. all of these simple acts of kindness will not only raise your serotonin levels, but they will also raise the serotonin levels of those whom you do the act of kindness toward, which is really fascinating when you think about it.
The most amazing part of performing an act of kindness is that these studies also found that when a completely separate 3rd party witnessed an act of kindness being performed, that their serotonin levels also rose just as much as those who performed the act of kindness, and the party who received and act of kindness. This is the amazing power of kindness. Through one kind action, many people benefited in a very positive way, all because of the power of kindness.
Hear’s an idea, instead of letting a TV become a baby sitter for children and have it show them examples of how bad the world can be, what if we were to take those same children and teach them to be more compassionate toward others for just one hour a week (it really doesn’t take much). What if we as a society allowed them to practice kindness in their daily lives as they grew up. If we did this we could eliminate needless violence in one generation. Think about that. Children learn by what they see, not by what they hear. For example; if you smoke cigarettes and finally realize how bad they are for you, and you tell your children not to ever start smoking, that won’t keep them from starting to smoke as much as letting them see you quit smoking. People learn through example.
It takes little time and cost nothing to teach children all about kindness. All they need to do is to witness you helping someone, give someone an honest compliment, or even just share a smile with a stranger, and they will learn from your act of kindness. This is because there is a direct correlation between the virtue of compassion and the interdependence of all things. In the world around you, there are limitless opportunities for expressing kindness.
It has been shown that when you shift your thoughts from negative, to positive, from unkind to kind, that your entire world literally goes through a metamorphosis and changes. In our world positive energy doesn’t always get in the headlines, but it is still a very, very powerful thing. In fact, in the very popular book and movie named “The Secret” they discuss the fact and show through examples that positive energy is much more powerful than negative energy, and when you put out positive energy by performing an act of kindness, you will receive it back tenfold.
Make kindness a habit. Practice kindness every day. When you feel an unkind thought or action bubbling up inside you, kick it aside and replace it with a kind, or at least a neutral, thought. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic instead of cursing them out, you can consider the fact that maybe they honestly didn’t see you, or they’re having a really difficult day. Have compassion and understanding. Soon you’ll find that kindness is your default. Sometimes when we are generous in small, seemingly detectable ways it can change someone else's life forever. Don't forget Anne Frank and her stunning comment in her diary while hiding during the holocaust. "In spite of everything," Anne says, "I still believe that people are truly good at heart.... that this cruelty too will end..." She was only 13 years old and still she had the capacity to understand the power of compassion and kindness.
What is the end result of showing more kindness? When you’re kind and surround yourself with kind people, you not only live a happier, healthier and less stressful life, you’re also surrounding yourself with positive energy, which in turn attracts more positive energy. In todays world kindness is the cure. Serotonin is not only a neurotransmitter allowing brain cells to talk to each other, but also a buffer against stress, and we all know how harmful stress is to your health. People who volunteer and who are generally kind in nature, often performing random acts of kindness, have higher serotonin levels, age slower and are much healthier. To see our own and others' suffering is the first step toward the birthplace of compassion. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Just as we’re all students throughout life, we’re also all teachers. We teach by what we do for others. We often teach more through our actions than through our words. When it comes to kindness and compassion, actions truly speak louder than words. There is an ancient Sanskrit word that beautifully illustrates this concept: “Namaste”. If you go to India today, this word is used when they say “hello.” But its true meaning is much, much deeper. It means “I bow to all that’s beautiful and divine within you.” There is always kindness in your heart. It is up to you whether you let it show or not.
All acts of kindness are measured the same. Whether you hold the door open for someone, or you’re walking down the beach and you pick up a piece of litter laying on the ground, all acts of kindness make this world a better place. This is why when you read or hear about a story that entails an act of kindness, you suddenly feel good. This is the power of kindness, and we all have it, and we all have the capacity to share it with one another. It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you - not because they are nice, but because you are.