WHY YOU SHOULD Make Kindness Part of Your Purpose
When you consider your purpose in life, is being kind a quality that features for you? I want to float the idea of why making kindness part of your reason for being is good for you (as well as all those people on the receiving end of your acts of kindness).
We’ve all been living a helluva year in 2020. Many of us have experienced a sense of hopelessness. We’ve been socially isolated. We’ve been divided – physically, politically, socially, philosophically. We’ve experienced horrifying natural and man-made disasters because of what we have been doing to our planet.
Frankly, 2020 is turning out to be a shizzle of a year.
Enter the idea of kindness…
A benevolent and helpful action intentionally directed towards another, it is motivated by the desire to help another and not to gain explicit reward or to avoid explicit punishment.
The longer I follow this AIP way of life, the more this personal value of kindness matters to me. And this year has only served to amplify this for me.
The ever-wise Anne Lamott wrote, “You can either practise being right or practise being kind.” This speaks to me (and my tendency to self-righteousness!)
Rumi, the spiritual teacher who has a quote for everything, puts it another way, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
Kindness, to me, speaks to our humanity. It is a way to remember that we’re all in this together. Kindness is compassion in action.
Let’s face it, when you start the Autoimmune Protocol, it’s all about the diet. Eliminate that. Eat more of this. And then, over time, you start to recognise the importance of lifestyle factors like sleep and movement and managing stress and spending time in nature. It’s only when you really hang in there that, over time, your self-awareness and sense of self begins to evolve. This is what I call the juicy stage. The stage where your AIP way of life moves from being transactional and task-oriented to more of a values-centric way of looking at the world. (Incidentally, this is when most of my clients come to me. At their juicy stage)
Within the Autoimmune Protocol framework, this juicy stage would be referred to as ‘mindset’. Your mindset is the mental framework in which your version of reality is built. Knowing your value, where it comes from, and keeping it front and center is key to how you choose to navigate the world.
Knowing your value, where it comes from, and keeping it front and center is key to how you choose to navigate the world. Setting – and keeping – an intention to practise kindness to both yourself and others will benefit your health.
Kindness has an amazing knock-on impact, though. The act of being kind doesn’t just make the recipient feel good. It makes you feel better, too.
But don’t just take my word for it. There’s science to back me up. Check out these examples:
- A meta-analysis of the effects of helping on the happiness of the helper published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that acts of kindness have a ripple effect – being kind makes you feel better just as it makes the recipient feel better.
- Simply witnessing acts of kindness occurring produces oxytocin, your ‘feel-good hormone’ which helps to lower blood pressure and improves heart-health. Oxytocin also increases your self-esteem and feelings of optimism.
- Dr Talya Steinberg says that, just like medical antidepressants, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and makes you happy
- Research shows that when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up as if you were the recipient of the good deed—not the giver. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high” and it positively changes your body’s immune function and lowers stress hormones.
A couple of suggestions for introducing more kindness into your life:
- Read (or re-read!) The Four Agreements
When it comes to this juicy stage of your health caper, working on your purpose can be hard work. The book that I share most often with my clients is The Four Agreements. This slim little volume gives you a personal code of conduct or roadmap to follow. One that is easy to understand, too.
- Be the example
Set an example. We know that this kindness thing is cumulative. Without role models who are kind, there will be less kindness to spread around. So be that person. Be an active participant in changing the world for good.
- Make a ritual of practising good intentions.
I’m a fan of setting intentions AND of creating rituals. When you say something kind to someone else, remember that your intention counts. Kindness and good intention usually go hand in hand, but in the few instances where they may not be aligned, do your best to practice good intentions. This means not expecting anything in return for your actions.
- Introduce Metta (Loving Kindness) meditation
Loving-Kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness, and warmth towards other people. There is some evidence that Loving-Kindness meditation may help to provide relief from pain and illness and to improve emotional resilience. I think it just makes you feel better (<– there’s that self-compassion in action) which makes you want to be a kinder person.
If you find the idea of a Loving-Kindness meditation a bit too woo-woo or star-dust and unicorns, how about starting with my Loving-Kindness Handwash?
Of course, when I suggest you make kindness part of your purpose, I don’t just mean kindness to others.
Don’t forget yourself in this process!
Sure, kindness to others is a compelling piece of this purpose ‘stuff’. But, kindness to yourself; that’s important, too. And often, especially for those of us in AIP-land, this can be a very hard lesson to learn in your juicy stage of your AIP way of life.
So many clients have told me they find the idea of self-compassion a bit selfish (spoiler alert – it’s NOT!). Guess what? Beating yourself up may well have contributed to getting sick in the first place.