“When you extend yourself in kindness, it comes back to you.” Oprah Winfrey 2004
Oprah has been urging Americans to embrace kindness for over a decade, but The World Kindness Movement actually started in Tokyo, Japan, in 1997 at a conference that brought international kindness experts together to create a worldwide movement. And it worked.
Remember those bumper stickers urging Americans to “Perform Random Acts of Kindness”? They helped kindness become a huge trend, and fortunately, it’s a trend with no end in sight. It’s easy to envision how kindness makes the world a better place, but did you know kindness contributes to the giver’s physical and emotional well-being? It’s true, and there’s science to prove it.
A study from Cedars Sinai Medical Center reinforces the connection between kindness and health. “We all seek a path to happiness,” says Dr. Waguih William IsHak, a professor of psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai. “Practicing kindness toward others is one (path) we know works.” Dr. IsHak refers to a significant scientific finding: when you perform an act of kindness, no matter how small, the body releases two feel-good substances: oxytocin and dopamine. Both oxytocin and dopamine modify brain chemistry to help lower blood pressure and relieve stress.
At the beginning of the kindness movement, one common act of kindness was to buy coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks. That’s a lovely gesture, but it’s tough to do in the days of coronavirus when we avoid lines and rely on online payments.
In these stressful times, connecting with others is an impactful way to shine the light of kindness. Simply reaching out to have a brief conversation and let someone know you care goes a long way. Give an old friend or relative a call (or send a text or email if that’s more your style).
The internet has a myriad of kindness resources, including Random Acts of Kindness, a site devoted to all things kindness. The site’s mission is to make kindness the norm via projects and ideas that cover everything from the (undervalued but essential) concept of being kind to yourself to showing kindness for the environment.
The residents and staff of Eastcastle Place have been recipients of acts of kindness, including signs, celebrations, and treats showing love and gratitude. Most recently, Kids Impacting Community (KIC) decorated Eastcastle Place with signs and drawings of hope.
The residents are also sharing their own way of ‘paying it forward.’ For instance, check out their kindness creations. They created marble watercolor cards that have been given to prospective residents to share by passing along to someone else. This is an ongoing project with the goal of inspiring the recipient to pass on the cards and to spread the beautiful message that accompanies them. Part of the message is: “we want to remind you that you are not alone. We know that kindness is sharing the best parts of our hearts with those around us. Here at Eastcastle Place, we are seeing these acts every day. We hope that you use this card we have provided to share kindness with someone important to you.”
The ECP card message ends with this golden nugget of inspiration and one we should all embrace on a daily basis: “Kindness is contagious-pass it on!” A smile is tough to see through a mask (wearing one is a major act of kindness, by the way). But you can always say “Hi” and wave. Spreading kindness to service people, to everyone in the hallways, and most importantly, to yourself is easy and free! As Oprah promises, it will come back to you.