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Try a Little Tenderness

You never know how your actions will impact others. The words you say. The expression on your face. Even just giving someone a smile, for no reason at all, can make the difference in someone’s day.

I have found this to be true many times in my life, on both the giving and receiving end. I’ve discovered that, what seems like a little, often forgotten, thing to me, has deeply impacted someone else. For example, on June 2nd I started posting what I think of as “You are” daily affirmations on my personal Facebook feed. I started with the post, “You are mighty!” I’ve heard from many friends, online and in person, how much these posts mean to them. That it is the bright spot in their feed, and their day. In August, when school was getting ready to start, and I knew my life was about to get much busier, I warned my friends that I was planning to end the affirmations. The response I got was overwhelming! People called, messaged and tracked me down in person, to let me know how upset they were that I was planning to stop the posts, begging me to continue. How could I say “no” to that? I must continue – for now.

Years ago, I heard a story about a woman, in Wichita, who had decided she couldn’t go on and was planning to take her own life. As she was walking downtown, a woman walked past her, made eye contact, smiled, and said “hello.” That smile and recognition, was what the woman credited with changing her mind to stick around. Searching for the article online just now, I found that this story isn’t as rare as one would think. I discovered many stories about how a simple smile, took a person from feeling invisible and unworthy, to help them feel noticed and alive. This made the difference between life and death. Now, I’m not saying suicide prevention is that easy, but why not smile at people anyway? You never know what it will do.

With all natural disasters we’ve had lately, the silver lining has been the stories of how people have selflessly aided others. Recognized as “heroes,” these people often say that they were just doing what anyone would do. But is this true? In this article from the Smithsonian Magazine interviewing Elizabeth Svoboda, the author of What Makes a Hero? The Surprising Science of Selflessness, a case is made that we “all have the capacity to rise to the occasion when disaster strikes,” with evidence that we can all become more compassionate. Many studies have been done that show how our brains light up in the same areas when we give to charities, as when our brain is processing pleasure and rewards. It feels good to help others.

Interestingly, our brain is hardwired to be kind. Darwin believed that sympathy is the strongest instinct we have. (Check out this video to learn more.) We often see that demonstrated in times of crisis, when people put their desire to help others behind their own self-interests, sometimes even risking their life to save someone they’ve never met. This is especially true when we’ve been through hard times ourselves. Studies show that when we have lived through suffering, we are more likely to help others in the same situation. Our empathy for others grow, as we gain more understanding of how tough the circumstances can be, because we’ve lived through it ourselves. See, your suffering isn’t in vain!

Being kind not only makes you feel good, it’s good for you! It reduces heart disease, slows aging, and makes for better relationships. Have you ever noticed that older people who appear happy, often look younger? It shows on their face. Kindness also has the power to heal. Research shows that human connection has the power to decrease pain, lessen anxiety, lower blood pressure, and increase the capacity of our immune system to fight disease. There are so many reasons to be kind. Why do we have to wait until a crisis to think, and act, kindly of others?

At a time when we can’t seem to agree on anything, can we agree on kindness? You can make the decision to treat everyone, even those you don’t agree with, with more compassion. It’s really pretty simple. Here are 103 random acts of kindness to inspire you. Kindness is contagious. Go spread some around!

What are you doing to bring up the kindness quotient?

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