The Power of Joy
My tank is overflowing
If you see two, slightly too tall women walking down the street with the same hairdo, the same gait, the same gestures, that would be me and my sister. When I look at her, it’s like looking in the mirror, and so when I called her from the ER late afternoon on Father’s Day to tell her my dad’s cardiologist is calling in the palliative care team, I knew just what she’d say. “I’ll be there in the morning.”
She knows me enough to know I wouldn’t ask her to come, but she also knew how much I needed her here to help make decisions and support both of my parents.
In this agonizing time, I’m struck by the power of kindness. It seems to be all around us. This kindness cradles us with a gentleness that is like the air we need to breathe. It shows up in the likely places, like the palliative care team. In a society where older folks can be dismissed, these beautiful people look my dad in the eyes, ask him probing questions about his life and his thoughts, and then calmly wait for him to fight through the confusion and the Parkinson’s to give his answers.
The kindness follows us around in the hospital stays, and now the skilled nursing facility. There are neighbors who envelope my mom in their arms and grab me in too, not because they know me, but because they love my mom, and so by association, they love me too, which is fine with me!
Such an unlikely time for my heart to be so full. And this is just from the kindness of strangers. Of course, I can continue this list with the likely places where I would expect kindness to blossom: my sister telling me to “take the day off” a couple days after she got here. Kim calling me every day to just listen, to just remind me how much she loves me.
Love and kindness I’m realizing, are the only things that live forever. They are these tiny and enormous bursts of magic that we can sprinkle everywhere, and that we feel so fully when someone sprinkles some on us.
Also in this last week, one of my dearest friends from Long Island passed after an unfortunate stroke. I’m awake at night with thoughts of the past, with grief, but also with so, so much gratitude. The last time I saw her in December, I’m thankful we would freely say, “I love you,” to each other. I’m so thankful for the memories, even though it’s all married to a feeling that she deserved more time.
I’m realizing that love and kindness make everything better, and I’m filled with gratitude about the receiving of it, and the giving of it too. And with so much kindness coming in, my tank is overflowing. So if you see me, don’t be surprised if I spread some kindness and love all over you. I’ve got plenty to spare right now and I’m looking forward to sharing some of it.
Kindness and love, they carry us, they shape us, they save us. Thank you for spreading some.
The Power of Why
Kindness is a strength
Acts of kindness happen to us and around us every single day. Yet, due to our innate negativity bias, our brains tend to focus on the negative, scanning the environment for threats, overlooking the positive aspects of our everyday lives. However, we can train our brains to be proactive in our pursuit of finding and recognizing kind acts. These don’t need to be extraordinary acts of kindness, they can be simple acts such as saying good morning to your colleagues each day.
Kindness is contagious, and therefore, the more often we witness kind acts, the more likely we are to emulate them and show kindness to others. There’s a misconception that kindness makes you weak. However, research shows that kindness makes us stronger mentally and physically. In fact, kindness is a strength! It's one of the 24 character strengths measured by the VIA (Values in Action) survey created by Dr. Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology. The VIA defines kindness as doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them. If you have not already done so, we encourage you to take the VIA. It’s an amazing tool that helps you to recognize and embrace your strengths.
Research shows the following traits are associated with kindness:
- Good listening skills
- Engage in perspective-taking
There’s a plethora of research on the impact kindness has on our mental and emotional wellbeing. Here is a summary of the findings:
- Kindness increase happiness and self-esteem
- Being kind improves how others see and accept you
- Kindness can lower levels of stress and social anxiety
- Kindness leads to reductions in risks for disease
- When we’re kind, and when we see others experience kindness, neural networks related to reward fire in our brains.
- Kindness is positively related to better self-regulation and less emotional reactivity.
- Being kind to others boosts psychological flourishing
- Kindness ranked above physical attractiveness in a potential mate.
Experts say that kindness is not only an important trait, but it’s also critical for our success as a species. The good news is that kindness is contagious and it creates a ripple effect. So let’s create a ripple that becomes a wave of kindness that we all can ride!!