I was in the kitchen making lunch for the kids who were on their way home from school. The heat was intense, about 90 degrees with 95% humidity. Just outside, I heard a cute little child's voice asking someone how long it would take.
I looked out the window and saw my prompt. Yes, I was prompted. What was I going to do?
Here's the complete scene, cute 5-year-old boy sitting on the curb in his darling checkered blue and white school uniform and dad sweating profusely trying to change his car tire. Would I let this pass? Honestly, it was very, very hot out there. No, I wouldn't let this pass. I filled two big cups of ice water and found some snacks that I could take down to the boy, figuring that his lunchtime was probably pushed out a bit due to the flat tire.
I opened the side door to the house and I said ( in Spanish) "I don't know anything about tires but I know a lot about cold water." I handed the man his tall glass of water and I brought the boy a big tin cup of ice water and the snacks. He was shy. He didn't want to look at me or say anything but he took the offerings. It was so easy to help so I said, "Is there anything else I can offer?" The man said, " no, pero muchas gracias." After the tire was fixed, they rang at my side door and returned the cups.
I'll have to be honest after I offered this very tiny act of kindness, I felt pretty darn good, and that feeling lasted the whole day.
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation says that there are scientifically proven benefits to being kind!
Did you know Kindness INCREASES:
THE LOVE HORMONE
Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone' which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we're in anxious or shy in a social situation.
"About half of participants in one study reported that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth" Christine Carter, UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center
A 2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness in 136 countries found that people who are altruistic-in this case, people who were generous financially, such as with charitable donations-were happiest overall.
"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." Christine Carter, Author, "Raising Happiness; In pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents."
According to research from Emory University, 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."
Like most medical antidepressants, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and makes you happy!
Did you know Kindness DECREASES:
Engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins-the brain's natural painkiller!
Perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population!
A group of highly anxious individuals performed at least six acts of kindness a week. After one month, there was a significant increase in positive moods, relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance in socially anxious individuals. Univ. British Columbia Study
Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly improved. Mortality is delayed, depression is reduced and well-being and good fortune are increased.
Committing acts of kindness can lower blood pressure. According to Dr. David R. Hamilton, acts of kindness create emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a "cardioprotective" hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.
So I'm ready to be prompted for more Random Acts of Kindness. Of course living in Mexico there is no shortage of opportunities. I do find myself though, thinking about how culturally acceptable my particular act of kindness will be perceived before I do it.
Two things to leave you with from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation:
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
KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS
The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to "pay it forward." This means one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people!