I love this time of the year! The sparkle of Christmas lights on the tree, the Glühwein, the Christmas Markets, holiday movies and Christmas songs. I love the traditions that I have grown up with, as well as the ones that I have created: putting up my Christmas tree on the 1st, stockings hung up on the fireplace, a carrot and a mince pie left out for Santa and his reindeer, presents on Christmas morning, and watching It’s A Wonderful Life with my girlfriends.
And as much as I enjoy all of this, another tradition I started a few years back is to host an annual Random Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar. It is a fun and easy way to embrace the spirit of giving and to spread some love and kindness during the holiday season.
As you know, my big passion is happiness, and we all take it for granted that being kind is a good thing and makes those we help feel nice. However, there is so much research on why kindness is a powerful tool in our quest for happiness.
Kindness Makes Us Happier
‘If you want to be happier, be kind’ HH the Dalai Lama
In 2004 at the University of California, participants performed acts of kindness for ten weeks and researchers conclusively found that being kind makes us much happier. But not only happier but very happy.
Kindness Changes Our Brains
Research now shows us that the brain is not fixed and can be changed. This is called neuroplasticity. Even thinking kind thoughts creates millions of new connections on the left side of the brain (just above your left eye). Tibetan monks who practice loving kindness meditation have extremely large prefrontal cortexes.
Kindness Combats Stress
When we are stressed we release the stress hormone cortisol, which raises blood pressure, disrupts sleep, lowers our immunity and causes hormone imbalances. According to Dr David Hamilton, when we are more kind we release what he calls ‘The Cuddle Chemical,’ which protects our heart and reduces cortisol.
Kindness Improves Relationships
Being kind effects how we feel and how we interact with others. It improves our relations with family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and strangers. And did you know that kindness is more attractive than good looks? A study of over 10,000 people in 33 countries found that people rated kindness as being the most attractive characteristic for both men and women.
Kindness is Contagious
Being around kind people is contagious and makes us feel happier. It’s known as the Mother Theresa Effect. Our children learn from us, by copying us, so by acting kind, we teach our children to be kind, too.
And Don’t Forget Self Kindness
Being kind to others is important but don’t forget self-kindness. Practicing self-kindness reduces stress, lowers depression, builds resilience and makes us feel happier.
I think you will agree that kindness is pretty powerful stuff!
This article originally appeared in the December issue of Über Moms. newsletter.