We don’t need to look far at the moment to see immense kindness spreading almost as virulently as the virus itself. Local communities and neighbours, organisations and businesses have identified the needs of their individuals, and have carried out incredible acts of kindness to address them. We see it on the news and we see it happening around us; shopping for the vulnerable, sewing or making visors for key workers, reaching out to people we know who are struggling, and fundraising for the NHS and charity work to care for others. We do it because we see a need and we do it because it feels good.
Kindness research has shown us that being kind helps others and ourselves, and that has a direct, beneficial impact on our immune system. It slows ageing, improves our relationships and it is catching; kindness is contagious.
How powerful could it be to not only show compassion to others but to apply the same principles to ourselves?
We all have needs and they don’t know about viruses! If we become aware of our needs, pay attention and kindly address them, we can go a long way to improve our own wellbeing. If we accept that helping others can soothe and restore and help heal pain, we can do the same for ourselves if we allow it. As Dr Kirsten Neff counsels, “Treat yourself as you would treat a good friend.”
There is a limit to the success of taking any measure to address our wellbeing if behind that step is a strong negative, critical voice. We all know what that feels like, but how much have we practiced speaking kindly to ourselves? Speaking to ourselves as we would to a good friend? We tried something, it didn’t work out, “that’s ok,” we might say, “why not try something else?” No blame, no rejection, just kindness. However small the step, we have time to experiment here.
- Feel Better Live More podcast, Dr Rangan Chatterjee, Episode 104
- The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown