Be kind. Be calm. Be safe.” Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia
Most BC residents can recite the three-pronged mantra that Dr. Henry introduced in March 2020 during her daily updates on Covid-19 to assuage our fears and anxiety about the pandemic. Her words combined science and compassion. Acts of kindness release the happy hormones (dopamine, oxytocin) that effect positive changes in our brain, heart and immune systems, and may lessen depression. Our bodies are healthy when we’re kind, and Dr. Henry cautioned us to be healthy in resisting the virus.
While we may try consciously to avoid being unkind, do we ever ask ourselves if we’re being kind? How often do we deliberately practice kindness in our words and actions? Kindness doesn’t have to take the form of heroic feats. We needn’t dive into a frigid lake and save a drowning person (though I would if need be). We can smile at a stranger, hold open a door, offer to carry a heavy bag, or let someone with fewer items cut before us in the grocery line. Modest gestures afford the same rewards as grand ones. And just as our muscles respond well to regular training, so too do our brains when kindness becomes a habit. But don’t turn a habit into routine. Preparing a delectable dinner every night for Glen no longer constitutes kindness, despite his appreciation. Variety in our actions is key to amplifying the welcome reactions.
As enlightened self-interest, East Van Roasters offers a pay-it forward system. Patrons of the café can buy an extra, ‘suspended’ coffee that gets listed on a chalkboard. When there are numbers on the board, underprivileged individuals pop in to enjoy a ‘suspended’ beverage for free. I wish more enterprises presented this opportunity: anonymous donors exercise kindness and recipients feel its loving partner — gratitude.
In The Five Side Effects of Kindness Dr. David Hamilton elaborates on the following benefits:
- kindness makes us happier,
- improves relationships,
- is good for the heart,
- slows ageing, and
- is contagious.
Since 1998 World Kindness Day is observed annually on November 13 as part of an international movement promoting the importance of being kind to one another, to ourselves, and to the world. I aim to join the contagion of kindness. ♥