We often think of kindness as something we offer to others. I would like to suggest that kindness to others, especially strangers, is the ultimate form of self care. Of course, I didn’t come up with this insight: a lot of people have researched the value of kindness to our own social identity needs. So, my thoughts are informed by what I have read and experienced about the salutary effects of kindness to others. Let me elaborate.
When we are in stressful conditions, could be at work or in a relationship, we feel the weight of negative emotions in our bodies. We often find ways to ease the anxiety and stress caused by our negative experiences. Most of the times, according to Mark Bracher,1 if we do not know how to cope with this surfeit of emotional stress, we turn to self harm (Drugs, Alcohol etc.) or we lash out at others. [I also have a Udemy course on this very subject].2 All these modes of expressing our frustrations and anger actually end up aggravating the very thing causing the stress in the first place.
According to latest research on consciousness and the brain (cited by Mark Bracher), if we feel under stress, one immediate way of easing ourselves out of that stress and anxiety is to actually do something we can call “good.” This means that if we are under some kind of stress, our body is in an anxious state, so if we go out and help someone else, or actually are just nice to someone else, we feel good about it and that feeling helps us transform the negative emotions associated with the stressful emotions into something positive.
I have tried this technique in my personal life: Every time I feel slighted or offended, instead of getting angry, I try to act even softer and am extraordinarily kind to anyone I encounter immediately after the negative experience with someone else. In a hundred percent of cases, I always feel better when I transfer my anger into genuine kindness of speech or gesture towards others.
So, in this world of heartbreaking inequalities, we can, actually, enable ourselves to feel better through simple acts of kindness to others.
In a sense, then, kindness that we render unto others is actually a kind of self care!
- Mark Bracher. Radical Pedagogy. https://amzn.to/3pbS01c[↩]
- Transformative Teaching[↩]
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