Keeping Up with Kindness
Why being nice is no 2020 phenomenon
Kindness is the word on the street this year, a core response to a global pandemic that continues to challenge our everyday lives. However, kindness itself is no New Age phenomenon, in fact the first recorded use of the word kindness dates back to 14th century –deriving from the Middle English word ‘kindenes’ meaning ‘courtesy’. So, what does it mean to channel kindness in a modern-day setting– COVID or no COVID – and more importantly, how do we stay kind to ourselves and others?
We can turn towards kindness as a natural response, not one fuelled by expectation, says Brady Polkinghorne, director of The Kindness Institute – the Kiwi charity supporting individuals, organisations, workplaces and schools to over come anxiety, fear and stress, and integrate mindfulness.
“I think in a way the COVID situation is a magnified version of what we teach through our core youth development programme, ATAWHAI – it’s amplified basic human rights into mainstream media,” says Brady. “COVID elicits a certain reaction within us – at a physical and mental wellbeing level, and kindness is our natural response to that. So, if COVID’s the magnified version, on a more direct, personal level it might be the stress of dealing with a difficult family member.”
By actually practicing kindness to ourselves, we’re not pinning it to one certain event.
“This means we can call upon kindness as these things popup – if not COVID, then climate change, whatever the issue of the day – drawing parallels to our own personal experience.”
Feel your way through
The act of kindness shouldn’t be bounded by situation or relationship, in fact, choosing your own stance on what it is to be kind builds a healthier platform to leverage from.
“Practicing empathy towards ourselves goes hand and hand with the notion of kindness. If we can be still and allow those feelings to come up and meet those feelings with kindness and empathy, it puts us in a really good place – regardless of what’s going on.”
Everyone’s a winner
Expressing kindness – be it volunteering or simply leaving a note to a whānau member – has both internal and external effects for the self and others.
“Studies of kindness the world over highlight the physiological benefits – increased serotonin, lifespan, a decrease in pain and stress. Kindness is the vehicle to get these tangible effects,” says Brady. “Even if someone observes an act of kindness, they experience a physical effect, and can ultimately be inspired to pay it forward.”
Accept don’t repress
Observing the shifts in the way we gift and receive kindness enables us to hold fast to meaningful empathetic and compassionate pathways, says Brady.
“It’s okay to gift a person a meal or a bunch of flowers and want validation for your actions – there’s nothing wrong with wanting credit – it’s about accepting those feelings, not repressing them,” he says. “And, when we are experiencing feelings of distress or unease, we can practice gratitude. Choose to focus your thoughts on what you are most grateful for then and there – it doesn’t have to be big. But by finding gratitude we can neurologically shift ourselves into a positive space.”