The Science Behind Kindness

Today’s WARider Challenge is “Do a Good Deed Day.” At the time I chose this as a theme, I didn’t really think about it too much. I think it was inspired by an incident I had just experienced that day in a supermarket, which had huge impact on the quality of my day. It got me thinking… What is Kindness?

We hear it all the time, to be kind, always. Does it mean to be “nice” all the time? I often times feel that the term is misused, and sometimes even abused, depending on the situation.

I like to think I am a decent person and that I am supportive of others. I was always told growing up if you “don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” and to “treat others as you would want to be treated.”

They are principles that have shaped my character, I like to think anyways. But there are also times when I feel something must be said, knowing that the person on the receiving end may not like or agree with what I have to say. Which then sometimes make me feel like I am being unkind simply because I don’t agree with this person or their actions? Being Kind can get a little confusing in today’s world, when you are constantly being told to be so.

So I took it upon myself to learn more. To simplify it.

Kindness is a Science.

Yes, kindness is science, it’s scientifically proven – because every act of kindness has a physiological effect on your mind, your body and on those around you. The hormones released help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, making you feel happier and more calm. Just like a drug.

Kindness is chemical

Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, Endorphins. These are chemicals responsible for the way you physically and mentally feel. Good or bad. So if you want to feel good, you need to up your dosage.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and plays a role in how we feel pleasure.

Seratonin heals your wounds and helps you to relax. It makes you feel good.

Endorphines reduce pain and are similiar to those drugs we called opioids as they reduce stress and lead to feelings of euphoria – which is why you feel good after exercise or at a music concert. For us equestrians, it’s that feeling when the last pole stayed up or you’ve jumped a clear and inside the time cross country!

Oxytocin reduces blood pressure and makes you feel more loving and loved in return (it’s why we gush an coo over our horses after the double clear!)

In all, acts of kindness release these hormones – and scientifically they make you feel more energized, have less aches and pains, give you a boost of self confidence – all things that actually make you happier and live longer!

Kindness is Contagious

(An unpopular word for this day in age!)

Kindness is contagious because one random act of it has a doubling effect on those you share it with.

Those around you who see and experience acts of kindness are filled with the same hormones you are by doing them. Just like when someone randomly bursts out laughing and can’t stop – you end up laughing with them. You’ve no idea why you’re laughing, but you all feel good as a result.

It’s simply things – making someone a cup of tea or coffee when they’re not expecting it or have asked for it. Holding the door for someone, even smiling and saying hello to the stranger who has caught your eye, acknowledging them instead of looking the other way. They are all simple things that make a big difference in someone’s day.

I most recently helped an older gentleman at a checkout when the cashier was getting annoyed and impatient that he didn’t have enough carrier bags for his shopping. The man was also paying in cash, and didn’t have enough change to buy an extra bag. He was fumbling and looked confused, glancing at me uncomfortably and at the line of shoppers behind me. You could tell he did not know what to do or how he was going to get his shopping packed up and out of the way.

So I gave him one my bags and I told him to take his time. That I wasn’t in a hurry.

As a result the cashier softened his tone, probably feeling a little embarrassed. The man was very thankful, and instead of fumbling frantically in his pockets for spare change, he relaxed and calmly packed his bag of shopping.

Kindness is easy

It’s not about being “nice” all the time. It’s the simple things in every day life that make a huge difference. So I’m not going to make suggestions about how you can be kinder – because kindness should never be contrived or forced. It allows itself the opportunity to be used in every circumstance and everyone’s experience of kindness, or what kindness means, is different.

Today may be the WARider Challenge to do a good deed – but doing good things does not need a specific day to celebrate it. In fact, I would hate for anyone to feel that they must think up some random act of kindness for the day to fulfil the challenge.

The real challenge is to recognise the opportunities that arise for kindness to be exercised. Because kindness is a chemical reaction to a moment. And the challenge is to act on it.

Kindness isn’t just a thing you can be told “to be,” it’s simply not that simple. It needs practice. It needs a life, and just like any contagious disease it needs a host, it needs you.

More importantly, you need it more than you realise. And that is scientifically proven. Have a wonderful day, where every you are and notice the opportunities that kindness affords you.

Cat x

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