Imagine a pool of water. Serene and still. Calm and quiet. No wind, no movement - stillness. You pick up a stone and you throw it into the water and watch as ripples form and spread…
Let me tell you a story.
On the way home from the dentist one day, 5 year-old Justus and his family were waiting at a red light when they spotted a homeless man on the street outside the window. His mum had no spare change so just smiled apologetically, but Justus had also seen the man and really wanted to help. He rummaged around in his coat pocket, and pulled out 30 pence, handed it to his mum and asked her to give it to the man. Moved by the generosity of her little boy, but also hesitant to offer so little, she rolled down the window and handed it to the man as she couldn’t ignore the values of compassion and selflessness that she had bought her son up with. The impact and gratitude of the genuine and heart-felt gesture of this small, 5 year old, boy was written all over the man’s face.
But this is not the end of the story.
This simple act rippled. In the following minutes, countless cars stopped by this man, despite the light being green, and rolled down their windows too, giving what they could.
You may be wondering why I am telling you this story but it is proof of the title of this blog.
The power of kindness - The ripple effect.
In this story we see the ripple effect of one small boy’s act of kindness. It set off a chain reaction that others were inspired by, so much so that they followed his example. One act of kindness led to many, and that in itself is powerful.
But what you may not realise is that each and every one of these acts doesn’t affect just one person - the recipient. There are numerous scientific studies proving that, just as the recipient experiences feelings of happiness and optimism, so do any witnesses and so does the giver.
This concept is named, “The Helper’s High”. This high is rooted in natural instincts to help fellow humans. Evolution has wired us to be kind to each other, since helping others is beneficial to human survival and fundamental to societal function.
This high is not superficial, however. Biologically, kindness has many effects on our body causing both the helper’s high and the feel-good emotions of the recipient.
You may have heard of the hormone oxytocin. The love hormone. The connection hormone. And the hormone serotonin. The happiness hormone. The hormone used in antidepressants.
Being kind and receiving kindness prompts the natural release of both of these chemicals, increasing self-esteem, self-worth, optimism, contentment and on the whole, boosts mood. A study showed that those who perform frequent acts of kindness have an average of 23% less cortisol, the stress hormone meaning kind individuals are a whole lot less stressed!
From a health point of view also, the benefits are extraordinary. Oxytocin, which I’ve already mentioned, causes the release of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels, decreasing blood pressure. Kindness can even have twice as big an effect as aspirin against heart disease.
There are always opportunities for acts of kindness, if we open our eyes to them and together these acts will create a powerful ripple effect, transforming lives and in turn, leading us into a happier,healthier, future.
So,if kindness boosts mood, reduces stress, improves health and has the potential to have lasting impact on many lives, why do we not show more?
Well, here’s a few possible reasons:
1. Kindness requires courage. Fear is a paralysing emotion. It stops us from acting. We fear a consequence.
2. The stereotype that being kind equates to somehow being weak. A stereotype that desperately needs to be challenged.
3. Anxiety, but ironically, and in truth, showing kindness can counteract this emotion.
4. Inward focus. We are all too often focused on our own lives and issues and therefore fail to see opportunities for acts of kindness. And finally,
5. Habit. Have we just forgotten how to do it by not practicing it frequently?
Sometimes we need a little help, to inspire us, point us in the right direction and help us to be proactive.
1. There is a wealth of resources online including kindness calendars which provide an intentional act of kindness each day
2. Read books and stories about kindness to inspire you.
3. Notice when you are the recipient and how it feels. Become the ripple effect by passing it on so someone else can they experience how you felt.
4. Also,be kind to yourself - look after yourself physically and mentally as by doing that, you will be better equipped to share kindness with others.
Written by a year 11 student