When I was little, I remember that my grandmother had sayings for each and every situation. So much so that, when at school we were asked to collect all the possible sayings for an assignment, I was one of the ones who turned in the most. She would write them down on the first piece of paper she could find (a shopping receipt, in many occasions) every time she came up with one. In the end, I turned in a whopping five hundred proverbs to my language class, each and every one of them coming from her prodigious head.
One of those sayings went like this:
You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
This wonderful sentence contains within those nine words an enormous amount of wisdom. What a pity that we so often forget to apply it.
Is there a magic formula that will make our lives easier? Well, I don’t know if there is a magic formula or not, what I do believe is that kindness can make a difference. It is true that there are types of personalities that seem immune to everything (this would be a chapter apart), even to a kind gesture or an expression of affection, but in most of us, receiving a token of kindness makes us feel good. But not only that, kindness has the incredible ability to work both ways, since not only does the receiver of that gesture feel good, but the sender also perceives a sense of deep well-being, as if his or her heart is smiling in some metaphorical or real sense.
Why bring an article about kindness today? Perhaps the question really should be, and why not? However, as I listen from my balcony as two people argue downstairs in the street (I do not hear what they say, but I clearly perceive the tone), I reaffirm the need to reflect on this: have we forgotten to be kind and the transformative power that this has?
We are witnessing a historic moment in which hostility, aggression and violence are particularly visible. It is what sells in the media and, like the virus that plagues our lives today, it also spreads through social networks with breakneck speed. We are inconceivably going through a social moment in which hate crimes and the rejection of those who do not think or feel as we do or depart in some sense from the standard we find acceptable or ideal is multiplying at an alarming rate. After what we have experienced in the past, it seems that we have not learned our lesson. And we think we are the most intelligent species on the planet.
What would happen if each one of us, faced with a situation that pushes us to the limit, decided to respond in a different way, without letting ourselves be carried away by toxic emotions? What would happen if each one of us greeted with a smile when entering a place and sincerely thanked the person who served us, for example, at the supermarket, in a restaurant or at the health center? Can you imagine the infinite capacity that each one of these gestures would have to transform the lives of so many people?
But I want to go a step further and I want to bring you the more selfish point of view so that you understand to what extent kindness could transform us. Just as it happens with gratitude, being kind has positive effects on our physical and mental health and science is there to corroborate it. The explanation is very simple, since in biological terms our brain reward system is activated and endorphins are released, which expands a sense of well-being both when we show kindness and when we receive an expression of kindness from another human being. In addition, levels of cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress, are reduced. Therefore, not only do we feel emotionally and mentally better, but we also reduce the physical risks of, on the contrary, being determined to be hostile and angry with the world.
I am currently reading the book «Cuando la mente encontró a su cerebro» (When mind met its brain) by Luis Aguado (I recommend it 100%) and he devotes a few pages to the functions performed by mirror neurons, discovered not too long ago by a group of Italian researchers. In this section he talks precisely about learning by imitation (so important when we are children), empathy and how we respond to the interaction with other human beings according to the emotions they provoke in us. Have you noticed in how many circumstances we imitate gestures and expressions of others? NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) talks about this at length, although it is not the subject here. Each one of us is a compendium of genes and learning, of experiences lived and shared with other human beings. Let us not allow hostility to triumph. Become a tool of change.
Will you help me make this world a kinder place for everyone? You are very important for us to achieve this.
THANKS FOR READING
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