The way an individual interacts with others is directly linked to his or her physical, mental and emotional health. The physical, mental and emotional health of those sharing the interaction is positively affected too.  

I wish to share some thoughts on kindness.

Kindness is Contagious

Kindness, like all emotion, is contagious. It is also proven to make you happier. When you’re kind to others, your brain produces feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters that promote the ability to build strong relationships with others, fostering positive feelings all around.

If taking the feelings of others into consideration is one of the definitions of kindness, other worthy attributes such as sympathy, empathy, compassion, thoughtfulness, gentleness and caring also fall under its umbrella. So is being humane, as kindness should also be extended to animals.

I am often impressed by the kindness displayed by people I see at Bundaleer, which caused me to ponder: what makes a person kind?

Byron Katie, as usual, provided an answer: “The less you suffer, the kinder you naturally become.”  Compassion and suffering are definitely linked. But being compassionate is more complex than simply being kind; for “If compassion means wanting others to be free of suffering, how can you want for others what you may not be able to provide for yourself?” (See my blog The Less you Suffer the Kinder you Naturally Become)

“The less you suffer, the kinder you naturally become.”

I recently read an article by a psychologist who works with people who feel they are unlovable and undeserving of kindness or compassion. Dr Kirby from the University of Sussex examined brain scans of more than a thousand participants. He discovered strong positive benefits (production of neurotransmitters like serotonin) when people acted kindly, especially when there was no immediate gain for themselves.

What interested me most was his finding that the act of being kind to oneself offered just as much benefit as altruistic kindness. “If I am being kind towards myself, the same regions (in the brain) light up if I’m receiving kindness from another person or giving kindness to another person,” Dr Kirby discovered. Being kind to other people can have multiple benefits, but it’s also just as important to be kind to yourself.

Being kind to other people can have multiple benefits, but it’s also just as important to be kind to yourself.

I find it fascinating that some people are very good at being kind to others but the very thought of being kind to themselves is foreign or threatening. What prevents us from being kind to ourselves?

The barriers to being kind to ourselves lie in our reaction to physical, mental and emotional traumas experienced earlier in our lives (See my blog article When the Voice Gets Louder…). These traumas result in tension being stored in our bodies which blocks our ability to express or receive kindness.

Releasing the stored tension, which is commonly felt as pain, restricted movements and lack of energy and direction, frees us to fulfil our potential to be a kinder, happier person.

This is the very heart of the work I do with the people in my practice. I help them find and bring attention to the tension in their bodies and using precise and gentle techniques release the layers buried within. This process allows people to further accept and express their kindness and compassion.

Kindness, like all emotion, is contagious.

Image: Evening Clouds, Kyneton by Ken Stewart