I received a gift today… a gift of kindness. It wasn’t expected or asked for; wasn’t on my wish list or under a tree. It was a kind word, a gentle spirit, a voice sharing her thoughts and validating mine. What an awesome gift.
As I sit to write this afternoon, I keep reflecting on this gift.
You’ve all probably heard about ‘random acts of kindness’, ‘pay it forward’ and ‘pass it along’. These are just a few of the many discussions around kindness. I wanted to know what else was out there and how kindness impacts our health and overall well-being.
We all have bad days at work, but… How do some of us remain resilient, while others become emotionally exhausted and burned out?
Here is what I found.
In his column “Your Best Life”, John Henry, MD, associate professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, shares this quote from Henry James…
“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”.
Dr. Henry states that charitable gestures such as a simple, “how can I help you?”, when approaching a colleague or patient can shift your attention away from a bad day and curb streams of negative thinking.
Wayne Sotile, Ph.D, connects this kindness to higher resiliency in physicians. Positive gestures or actions were found to lift them up through the day and buoy their spirit. And giving of oneself through kind words often is reciprocated by others, continuing the uplifting effects.
In his new book, High Potential, author Shawn Achor describes “the power of one made stronger by others versus the power of one alone”. From early childhood we are taught to be the best, to finish first, succeed at all cost, and in some circles, scratch, claw and break the back you’re climbing on to reach the top.
We push ourselves too hard, become more stressed and push others away.
How’s that working for everyone?
Achor shares research in High Potential that shows the power and ripple effect of interconnections leading to achievement. When we work on something together, we achieve more AND bring more meaning to our lives. He describes the importance of how we connect with, relate to, and learn from others in order to reach our greatest potential. He goes on to say that we influence and are influenced by those around us.
Let’s surround ourselves with positive influencers.
One specific strategy of Achor’s work that aligns with Healthy Workforce Institute’s mission to eliminate bullying and incivility in healthcare is to tap into the power of positive peer pressure.
Our exposure to positive and negative people impacts us. As a society, we talk a lot about negative peer pressure – the bullies, the toxic environment, the unmotivated naysayers – let’s shift our focus to positive peer pressure. The research validates that positivity has a multiplier effect.
General Colin Powell described it this way – “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier”. Surround yourself with positive, engaged, motivated people. The energy produced collectively generates more positivity, therefore diminishing negative influences, and has very similar results to Sotile’s work mentioned earlier.
Another strategy introduced by Achor links our desire for a healthy workforce by defending against negative influencers.
Negativity is thriving. Negative coworkers, negative leaders, negative news. Depression and anxiety rates are skyrocketing.
Did you know that a single toxic person has a much greater impact than a superstar on a team?
When we protect and defend, we influence ourselves and our work environment. We become stronger, able to handle challenges and become more resilient.
Achor suggests we try the following strategies to defend against negative influences.
- Cancel the noise by turning off the radio for 5 minutes during your commute to work.
- Try meditation to cancel out negative chatter in your brain – there are APPS that have ones based on your available time.
- Do a meeting detox (a favorite of mine) – come together as a group and eliminate all recurring meetings that have no defined goal or objective.
- Build a mental stronghold, a mental reservoir of resources to defend against stress and adversity – daily practice of gratitude, recounting three positive interactions daily, rituals like Thankful Thursday or Terrific Tuesday in the workplace where you share optimism.
One final researcher, David R. Hamilton, Ph.D. shares his work on the benefits of kindness and the impact made. Think about the impact these 4 benefits could have on your employees. By recognizing the benefits of spreading kindness in your departments, you’re simultaneously transforming your workforce culture.
Kindness makes us happier
Elevated levels of endorphins, dopamine create a “helper’s high”. A study of more than 3,000 people found that 95% of people feel good when they help someone, 53% of people feel happier and more optimistic, and those feelings last hours or even days for 81% of people.
Kindness slows aging
Kindness/generosity has been linked to the release of oxytocin which reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and thus slows aging at its source. It’s also good for the heart!
Kindness makes for better relationships
We are wired for kindness. Some even say there is such a thing as kindness genes within the human genome. We flourish when we are relational. We are connected through kindness. Current relationships strengthen and new relationships develop when we are kind to one another.
Kindness is contagious
Being kind inspires others to be kind, creating a ripple effect. My favorite example of this combines my love for coffee and paying it forward. It brings me great joy to get my favorite drink through the drive thru and pay for the next person in line… so many follow suit; that is so cool!
It’s time to focus on kindness. How can you make a difference in someone else’s life through kindness?
- Be kind in words and actions each day regardless of how you perceive others treating you.
- Be aware of and own your negative emotions, then be kind anyway.
- Take one day and write down all the times you were kind. Also note when you could have been more kind or positive.
- The next time you are having a bad day, decide to be kind to the next person you encounter.
Remember, each act of kindness might seem small, but it’s actually changing the way we see ourselves, the way we see others, and the way others see us.
Want to join a Kindness Initiative with Renee and the Healthy Workforce Institute? Join the Be Kind, Not Cruel Facebook Community today!
This article was written by Pam Spivey, a Healthy Workforce Institute Content Writer.