I once attended a talk given by Dr David Hamilton entitled as his book, the 5 side effects of kindness. David explained that the drugs that doctors prescribe for depression contain an artificial copy of something we naturally produce in our body when we are kind - oxytocin. It isn't produced when parents say 'be kind to your brother/sister' or by us wanting to show how kind we are. It is produced when we feel kindness, when we feel compassion, empathy, when we reach out and touch someone who needs some love, when we think of calling someone who might be lonely.
He starts his book with a quote from Kahlil Gibran, the prophet.
In the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
At this time with our children going back to school and as we see a gradual opening up again of our world, surely this is the perfect time to be kind. When we, as adults, parents, are kind, we demonstrate it to those we care about. Telling children to be kind is not the same as showing them how to be kind.
Shall we think of different ways we can show kindness?
Being grateful builds a kind heart, focusing on what we are thankful for, what we like about our friends and family. I encourage my teen clients to keep a gratitude diary or journal to remind themselves, especially in these times, of how much they have and how grateful they are for all they have. It's a really calm way to go to sleep, to focus on these things rather than what they are worried about.
Stroking your pet, looking after it, playing with it, also boosts oxytocin. I've written two books about Danny a therapy dog who sadly has passed now but he used to go into schools to help children read because they relaxed by stroking him and could read more fluently. They didn't feel judged and they believed Danny was listening. Check them out in my bookshop. The money from the sales of these books goes to the Bark and Read scheme run by the Kennel Club.
Kindness has a ripple effect as you can see in the video above, as one person is kind to another, they in turn are kind to the next person. So each isolated act of kindness matter more than we think.
We can also be kind to ourselves. Be accepting of our vulnerabilities. You may cry, you may weep, despair, feel lonely, unsupported, not seen or heard and in those moments we need to be kind to ourselves, not judge but be gentle and give yourself the understanding you need from others. But it also means speaking out for ourselves, not being put down. Stand up for what is right, what you believe and show your children how to do the same, calmly because it is our right to express our needs rather than assume they will be met by others.
Kindness makes us happy. It makes those around us happy. It is contagious so very soon you have spread happiness in your world.