Kindness, compassion and gratitude are three of the most impactful, least pharmacological interventions that guarantee a positive effect on our neurological functioning and emotions. We have an enormous breadth of research on how and why kindness has the capacity to not only positively alter the mood of others and also has a drastic impact on the person that initiates an act of kindness toward another. Practicing and teaching kindness can be one of the greatest gifts that parents can provide for their kids and the effects of those lessons go beyond the actual act of providing for others. Engaging in an act of kindness can be one of the most selfishly satisfying acts a person could provide in that it increases dopamine levels, produces oxytocin, a hormone that aids in expanding blood vessels and lowering blood pressure and helps us feel more connected to not only the recipient of the kind act, but more connected to humankind in general.
So how does this fit into parenting? Parents can both be the teacher and recipient of the benefits of kindness. Not only do the receiver and giver of kindness benefit, parents and their kids who witness the act of kindness actually benefit as well, helping them experience similar effects and increasing their capacity to engage in acts of kindness too. The prevalence of depression and anxiety in parents continues to increase where loneliness and isolation have become cultural norms rather than connectedness and kindness. Think acts and benefits of kindness are limited to parents? Adolescents, often mislabeled as self-serving in their thoughts and actions, are enormous beneficiaries when practicing kind acts, particularly with strangers. While the prevalence of depression and anxiety continues to increase with adolescents at a rate higher than any other age group, kindness has shown to decrease levels of depression while simultaneously increasing compassion for others as well as self-compassion. Even children’s programming such as Sesame Street has started showing the impact of kindness on kids of all ages.
Is the Four Minute Kindness Challenge as simple as it sounds? Absolutely! The call to action is simply finding a person and, in less than four minutes, providing one kind act that will benefit that person. Looking for some ideas to get started?
Call three contacts and tell them why they are important in your life
Secretly pass on a positive complement to a well-deserving colleague in the workplace
Walk down the street and say hello to 3 random people
Purchase a gift card for your postal worker and thank them for their work outside of a holiday season
Send a thank you note to the boss that fired you-you would not be where you are today without being fired
Place flowers in a public place with a note letting the person know you hope they have a great day
Find an old friend you haven’t contacted in more than a year and reconnect with them
Volunteer 60 minutes in an organization you would like to support
Looking for an ongoing act of kindness that matches a cause you would like to support. Try visiting DoSomething.org for resources that can help match you and/or your kids’ interests to a group that needs support.