Everyday Kindness Enriches Us All

From childhood most youngsters are encouraged to be kind to their siblings, friends, pets and adults they encounter. Unkind reactions towards anyone are frowned upon by healthy parents as they model politeness, kindness and consideration for people and animals. These programmed and modeled reactions are emulated by youngsters and help them foster healthier relationships throughout life. What is NOT usually taught is how to respond to another’s harsh words, name calling, shaming, or false accusations, while preserving one’s and the offender’s esteem at the same time. Or, how to spare another’s dignity while being insulted. The latter is not an intuitive reaction but may be a healthy self-preservation tool.

In “5 Beneficial Side Effects of Kindness” Dr. David R. Hamilton states, 1.“Kindness makes us happier: The ‘Helper’s High’ is evoked by elevated levels of Dopamine in the brain that is produced by Endogenous opioids. 2. Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth subsequent to the production of oxytocin in our brain and throughout the body. 3. Kindness slows aging by reducing free radicals and inflammation. 4. Kindness makes for better relationships. It reduces the emotional distance between people, so they feel more bonded. 5.Kindness is contagious. It creates The ‘domino effect’ in waves of donated organs from anonymous donors.”

Though kindness is highly touted, it is sometimes very difficult to sustain one’s positive emotions in certain circumstances. A personal example of mine highlights this point.

I moved to Santa Cruz from New York after having completing my Ph.D. with honors at New York University. I still had an Israeli accent. As I stated my purchasing needs to the sales lady at a dress shop, she asked me where I was from and I told her I am originally form Israel. She then said: “You speak English good”. I thanked her and said I appreciated the compliment from a native English speaking lady. I felt no malice toward her, but was mildly amused. Obviously, since I still remember this short exchange of many years ago, it had clearly left an indelible mark.

When someone blatantly says something unkind to us, we may say, “I am sorry that my behavior displeased you and I apologize for it.” Or, motion apologetically when we cut someone off on the road. Or simply state, “Thank you for pointing this out to me – I always intend to do better.”

We need to be gracious in situations where others exhibit kindness or consideration to us, such as allowing us to turn first when driving, honoring our place on line or offering to help us while we are burdened by heavy packages. A “Thank You” is certainly appropriate but adding, “Thank you for your kindness” helps the recipient feel validated.

Practice your kindness:

  • Thank those who are helpful to you by stating your gratitude to them.
  • Reprimand with an appreciation. Say,”It is unbecoming to a nice gentleman like you to be cutting in line.”
  • Be appreciative, grateful and affirming of others.
  • Remember: kindness begets kindness.

 

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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