Spreading a little kindness goes a long way, says Sutton Coldfield author

Henry James once said: “ Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

Author Liz Bates, of Sutton Coldfield, with books she has written
Author Liz Bates, of Sutton Coldfield, with books she has written

Scientific studies have shown that kindness has a great number of physical and emotional benefits and that we all need a healthy dose of good, positive feelings in order to flourish as happy, well-rounded individuals.

Giving and receiving kindness are equally important, says Midlands author Liz Bates, as we celebrate World Kindness Day tomorrow.

Being kind to others feels good, as does someone being kind to you. And let’s not forget being kind to ourselves.

"Kindness can change our brains by simply experiencing it," Liz says.

"We can think and talk about kindness but that is not enough – for children, for everyone, the best way to learn about kindness is to experience it."

Kindness can produce endorphins activating parts of the brain that are associated with pleasure, which can lead to good feelings, Liz explains.

It can also lead to a rise of oxytocin, which can increase individual levels of happiness and increase levels of serotonin, which affects mood result in ‘helpers high’.

"There is no escaping the rise of unkindness in its most evident, explicit and toxic form," she adds.

"The anonymity of the internet has enabled a ‘no rules’ onslaught of unkindness which is almost impossible to challenge."

So the question is: “Why might someone choose to be unkind when there is a choice to be kind?”

"Because there is a choice, always a choice," she adds. "What is in it for someone to choose to be unkind? What reward is there?

"It may be feelings of retribution; a chance to get back at someone; repaying the unkindness of another; looking ‘big’ in someone else’s eyes; in order to ‘belong’; to feel superior or powerful; just because I can get away with it and there may be a short term buzz from it.

"But take the time to interrogate what unkindness is and justifying an act that is deliberately designed to cause distress, unhappiness, embarrassment or anger becomes untenable.

"And, of course, intellectually we all know this."

What steps can each of us take to bring about a kinder world? What kind act could you do for someone today, tomorrow or next week?

Liz says: "Kindness begets kindness and if you have an opportunity to carry out an act of kindness, a word or a deed, you may well see it reflected back, or passed on to someone else.

"Add to that the good feelings you and they will experience and there is a benefit for all.

"Even letting another driver into a line of traffic can give a little rush of ‘helper’s high'."

A Kindness Test launched in September by the University of Sussex with the BBC.

Led by Professor Robin Banerjee the aim is to learn more about how people's attitudes and experiences might vary across different groups, and how experiences of kindness might relate to health, well-being, and other social and psychological experiences.

The results will be available in February; and listen out for Claudia Hammond on Radio 4 who is also connected to this project and has broadcast a number of programmes on kindness.

Liz's book ‘Cool to be Kind: A practical resource for negotiating the world of friendships and relationships’ is available now on Amazon.

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