"Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness.
Every act creates a ripple with no logical end"
~ Scott Adams
It's Love Month over here at The PeaceRipples Institute! Whether you are celebrating partnership or relationships of all kinds, including the one with yourself, this month is full of ways to honor love!
February 14th is Valentine's Day, as most are probably well aware. The day before, however, might be less well known. Many people are starting to call February 13th Self-Love Day, a day to truly honor, check in with, and celebrate oneself. But that is not where the love celebration ends! The Love Army, Revolutionary Love Project, and dozens of other organizations are sending out a call to #ReclaimLove as a public ethic and force for justice. Valarie Kaur, a profoundly inspiring activist, has a TED talk coming out on the 12th and people are gathering for watch parties across America and beyond. Finally, to share all this good energy that has been generated on the 12th, 13th and 14th, we have Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17th! How fun is that? And not only is there a day dedicated to celebrating spreading ripples of kindness, there's a whole week! Did you catch all that? Here it is again:
Let's Celebrate Love Month!
February 11th-17th: Random Acts of Kindness Week
February 12th: Release of Revolutionary Love TED Talk by Valarie Kaur
February 13th: Self-Love Day
February 14th: Valentine's Day and the #ReclaimLove Movement
February 17th: Random Acts of Kindness Day
Now that you know, you are invited to join in on all the fun! How to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Week, you ask? Here is a little story that might give some ideas. Back when I was in high school, my school had a requirement that every student complete and present to the community a Senior Project in order to graduate. For mine, I chose to create and design a class called PeaceDance. I would combine my passions of peace, dance, and psychology and teach a class to 7th grade girls that was full of social and emotional learning practices, positive psychology teachings, stories and quotes from inspirational figures, and lots more.
As part of the program, we honored what I called "Do-Good Days," dedicating a day a week to going throughout our neighborhoods doing random acts of kindness. The final weekend before our performance, we got together to create our costumes and write up a list of random acts of kindness, which we then typed up into mini "Do-Good Day Books." We printed out hundreds of these books and took to the streets to pass them out. We put them on neighbor's car windows, with flowers on doorsteps, at coffee shops, and gave them to people walking by us. This left an impression on all of us and at many of our reunions since then we have recounted these fond memories together with much laughter and joy.
So if you're looking for some ideas to spread the love, here are some examples from our original Do-Good Day Books (remember, these were compiled by 7th graders):
Play music at a hospital
Send a get well card to someone you've never met
Make a sick person chicken soup
Send an old friend an email
Dance with friends in the rain
Send flowers in the mail
Play a game of cards with a sibling
Dance a lot
Smile at strangers
Put some change in someone's marking meter
Leave flowers on a doorstep
Leave a note of thanks on a neighbor's car
Send out half birthday cards
Hopefully that helps to get your ideas flowing! It is estimated that millions have participated in Random Acts of Kindness Week. You are not alone! Think of how many ripples go out from this! So gather friends, make an outing out of it, have a Revolutionary Love TED Talk watch party and then go out and shower your community with acts of love - there are so many creative ways to spread kindness!
If you need a little extra help convincing you to join in, here are five reasons why practicing kindness matters:
1. The World Needs Your Love and Kindness
"If we're destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there's got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that." ~ Ellen DeGeneres
This point may seem rather self-explanatory. One look at news headlines and it is pretty apparent that more kindness is needed in the world these days. It needn't be a big thing, even the smallest actions make a big difference. Get creative, there are always opportunities! And kindness is definitely not just for our fellow humans! Consider the earth and the animals and all the other incredible species we share this planet with, etc. And please, don't forget yourself! Sometimes the best act of kindness you can do is to put yourself to bed early or take yourself to a nice dinner where you can have quiet time to contemplate life.
“Wherever there is a human in need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference.” ~ Kevin Heath
2. The 'Helper's High' is a Real Thing
“When you feel down and depressed, go help someone else.” ~ My Dad
As a child, whenever I used to tell my dad that I was feeling downtrodden, he would say to go help someone else. Years later I would come to find out that not only did this help to get me out of my ruminating downward spiral in my head and lifted my eyes up to see others and the challenges and joys they are going through, it also helped to release a host of feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine!
Sometimes personal development programs and the search for happiness can get pretty self-centered. It is important to pause and ask, why am I doing all of this personal growth work anyway? When we start to see it as a way for us to show up and share our unique beauty with others that need what we have to offer, we enter a new realm entirely. Valarie Kaur, the founder of Revolutionary Love, when explaining the concept of revolutionary love, says to ask yourself, "what is my role in your flourishing?" I love this question and see it as central to our collective work of these times. (You can see the rest of her powerful vision for revolutionary love in her talk here.)
Here is Jason Silva's take on the helper's high. You can find more of his amazing weekly videos on his youtube channel, Shots of Awe.
3. Kindness Improves Health and Reduces Pain
“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” ~ John Holmes
Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness, says, “people who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.”
You can find more great research on kindness and its many benefits at the Random Acts of Kindness Week website.
4. Kindness is Teachable
“It's kind of like weight training. We found that people can actually build up their compassion 'muscle' and respond to others' suffering with care and a desire to help.” ~ Dr. Ritchie Davidson, University of Wisconsin
In neuroscience, they say "use it or lose it," and the reverse is also true: the more you practice a skill or keep doing a pattern, the stronger those neuronal connections get in the brain. The more you repeat something, the more comfortable you become with that pattern, which then becomes what we might call a habit. Kindness is no different. So consider Random Acts of Kindness Week a gym membership for building up your kindness muscles!
"Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again." ~ Og Mandino
5. Kindness is Contagious and Creates Ripples!
"Elevation seems to have a ripple effect, triggering cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes. It makes people more open, more loving, grateful, compassionate, and forgiving." ~ Jonathan Haidt
Moral elevation is the emotion experienced when people witness a great act of generosity, compassion, or kindness, something that shows humanity's "better nature," according to Jonathan Haidt. As he describes from his research, "we found that participants in the elevation conditions reported different patterns of physical feelings and motivations... Elevated participants were more likely to report physical feelings in their chests, especially warm, pleasant, or "tingling" feelings, and they were more likely to report wanting to help others, to become better people themselves, and to affiliate with others" (source).
That is why this topic of practicing kindness is included in the Wonder Wednesday blog series. Out of all the things that elicit awe and wonder in people, and across cultures, it appears that interpersonal acts of greatness rank the highest (source).
So go out there and create those ripples!
If you would like to take a deeper dive into to celebrating love and the beauty of the cosmos, you are invited to join our Making Love with Life online course that starts on Valentine's Day!