Are you noticing things (I'm not mentioning them, there is enough out there) are quite challenging at the moment due to all the uncertainty? In these times stress levels go up, and everyone's pinch point gets that bit more easily activated, causing friction in relationships. But you can decide to focus on being kind to ease the stress and soothe relationships. Being kinder is not about making sacrifices or denying your own needs. When you treat people kindly, it isn't an imposition or another task on your checklist, it is a way to be.
Here are some scientifically proven tips for engineering kindness into your brain.
Actively choose to be kind
It's the outward demonstration of living positively. Kindness is all about mindset, and you can train your brain to make kindness almost automatic. Ever notice that being kind to someone makes you feel good too? It's because altruism promotes a chemical reaction in your brain, releasing serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. These chemicals not only make you feel good but also work to reinforce positive social behaviour. By laying down new neural pathways, you set yourself up for living a positive, kinder life.
In choosing to be kind, you are consciously resetting your mindset to treat people with compassion and empathy. Notice the effect of your kindness on others. When you smile, people's natural reaction is to smile back. You set up a kindness loop that keeps on paying itself forward!
Choosing to be kind, regardless of your mood, can even turn a cranky day into a happier one. Your brain receives the message that all is well, and before you know it, you'll be feeling more cheerful.
Do more random acts of kindness
Here in the west, we associate the mind with the brain, whereas in eastern traditions, the mind is associated with the heart. When you think of it in that way, it is easier to tap into the kindness mindset, isn't it?
Studies have shown that carrying out five random acts of kindness every week is the single most effective way of increasing your happiness. Anything from buying a pay it forwards coffee, to letting another driver into the traffic, or even helping your elderly neighbour with shopping will make you and the other person feel good.
Be kind to yourself.
Self-kindness starts with noticing your self-talk. Are you encouraging or judging? Do you start from a position of 'yes I can' or 'I'll never do it'? Pay attention to that voice in your head, and change the script to really being kind and gentle with yourself. Be your own cheerleader, just like you would with your best friend.
Build little acts of self-care into your day. Reward successes, big and small. Take time to do the things that make you feel good. Make sure you get enough sleep, stay hydrated and have a nutritious diet.
Make it a daily practice to count your blessings. Research has shown that people are happier when they notice the good things in their lives and practice gratitude. The outcome is so marked that it changes your brain structure! Brain scans have shown the positive effects of both mindfulness and gratitude. What happens is the parts of the brain associated with stress shrink, while the regions associated with self-awareness and compassion grow. And that is what you want, I suspect.
Julie Silfverberg has worked in the field of personal and professional development for more than 20 years. She works with a diverse and exciting group of people. Each with their own unique talents and potential.