health & kindness

If you've been struggling - wishing you felt better - trying to make changes to improve your health but ending up feeling stressed, stuck and demoralised

and wondering, what's wrong with me, why is it so hard?

Consider this - you are probably missing an important ingredient in your health plans.

Helping you to really thrive, with kindness

Yes, kindness.  It's not just a "nice to have" extra. 

In fact kindness is surprisingly powerful - it's a key to sustained well being. 

A lack of kindness undermines the attempts we make to improve our health. 

We can change that.

Let's bring kindness into focus and discover what we've been missing. 

 

Why health and kindness?

We need kindness to really thrive.

It's that important. 

The absence of kindness is toxic -

for our health and well being,

and for the world around us.

It's time to make it a priority. 

Here's to practising kindness and enjoying its benefits.

 

 
20090416_softpark_0001.jpg

Kia ora, welcome to health and kindness!

Most of us would agree - we want to feel ok - we don't want to feel bad.

But life isn't always smooth sailing.  No matter how much we wish it wasn't so, things happen that are not what we expected, or how we think they "should" be.

Often that doesn't feel good.

And it can be so hard to feel ok about ourselves when we're in the middle of tough times - or when we're trying to recover from them.

We can feel stuck, confused, a mess, defeated, even ashamed.

And we don't like feeling this way!

We can get messages about how we may have caused the bad stuff to happen and, sadly, the people and the world around us are not necessarily helpful either.

So tough times, big or small, can be painful, and feel very personal. 

We ask:  "why is this happening to me? what can I do about it? what can I do to make myself feel better?"

We can end up trying to bargain with life. 

It can go from:  “I want things to be better, I want a different life"

to:  "I wish I was different, if only I was - on top of things, stronger, fitter, thinner, nicer, calmer, more successful, richer, had better relationships...(fill this space). 

We ourselves become the target - the problem.

We try to change our feelings by changing ourselves.  We try so hard to be "better" or "more" and very often end up feeling worse.

Stress, pain, overwhelm - they all set off changes in our body.  These body changes drive patterns of thought and behaviour which can be very unkind - "negative thinking", avoidance, withdrawal, soothing ourselves with food or drugs, and so on.  And then attempts to change these reflex patterns of thought and behaviour can become very unkind in themselves if the cultivation of kindness is not part of the remedy. 

I have worked with people who are in great distress - unwell or overwhelmed - for decades.  I have seen over and over that when we are struggling to improve our health and well being, surprisingly little attention is given to kindness in what we do and how we do it.  Health becomes a sort of battle ground, full of scare stories, judgements and "shoulds", and to-do lists which are hard to manage.  And often we are burdened by an underlying belief, a critique, that we are "wrong" in some way and need to be corrected, fixed, improved. 

And we just have to look around to see the impact on our world when kindness is lacking.  People and relationships suffer without respect, thoughtful help, warmth or caring - and these are just a few of the qualities that are encompassed by kindness.  So from the world scale to our individual struggles, kindness is an important issue.

 

Essentially:

  • Kindness feels good but we generally don't give it much attention.
  • People are often dismissive of kindness because of misunderstandings about it.
  • It is innate, wired into our biology, a human survival response.
  • A lack of kindness affects us - we struggle when there isn't enough in our lives.
  • This has a negative impact on our health and well being.
  • Whereas having kindness in our lives helps us to feel better in all kinds of (healthy) ways.

If we want to feel better - less stressed, less anxious, less depressed, less overwhelmed, less unworthy - we benefit greatly from kindness. 

Kindness is a skill - we can develop and strengthen our kindness skills - in our attitudes, our ways of treating ourselves and others, and in our deeds.  

If each of us does this we are not only helping ourselves - we will be helping all of us.  

People who live in kindness create an atmosphere that lifts and benefits us all.

We can all learn to live well, with kindness.

What is kindness

The importance of kindness

 

 

 

 

"Wit is an intermittent fountain,

Kindness is a perennial spring"

            - Marie Dubsky

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
20130216_springs_0004.jpg
 

Why health and kindness, what's the problem?

Do we take kindness for granted?

  • By definition kindness is considerate, thoughtful, respectful, caring, helpful, warm-hearted, generous.
  • It is not insincere, condescending, pushy, weak, acquiescent, “holier than thou” or creepy.

Even though we know kindness feels good, we don't seem to rate it all that highly.

It's a bit like oxygen, we might not think that much about it, but we feel it and struggle when there isn't enough of it. 

It seems that sometimes we have to lose something to understand that it's really important.


So, imagine living in a world without kindness

If we have just caught up with the news, we might think that's the kind of world where we do live.

But really, what would it be like? 

Well, if we look up the dictionary for words conveying the opposite of kindness, we find - harshness, thoughtlessness, hostility, cruelty, animosity, indifference, intolerance, dismissiveness. 

We don't have to think about it for long to know that if those values were in charge, our relationships (with ourselves and with others) would be very toxic - mean-spirited, abusive, scary.

  • Most of us don't want unkindness - not at all.  We want to feel ok. 
  • Often that means we want to feel better than we are feeling right now.

Trying to feel better and feeling worse

Actually, lots of us want to feel better - healthier, happier, less stressed, more ok about ourselves.

We know we are not alone because there's a flood of stuff out there trying to help us all - blogs, books, courses...

At the same time it can seem like we're living in a big pressure cooker - we feel the pressure to measure up, to be the "right" person doing the "right" thing - but what that means varies and keeps changing.

It's disturbing, judgemental, unkind - that feeling that we're somehow in the wrong, not doing enough, not measuring up.

When we want to feel better we tend to turn to a list of to-do's - trying to get better life balance, to get more sleep, to lose weight, to get fitter, trying that mindfulness that everyone talks about....

As they say, very trying indeed! 

Because if we don't feel better for doing them, then we feel even more in the wrong - we "should" feel better, it must be we're not doing things right.  Or, heaven forbid, we haven't managed to keep going with them.  FAILURE stares at us.

In fact, the whole area of health and wellbeing seems to be filled with ideas that are meant to be helpful but can leave us feeling stressed, inadequate, scared, concerned that we are not doing things "right" or being the "right" person.

Sometimes an even more painful idea piggy-backs with health information and advice - it can be spoken or unspoken but it hits hard - it's the idea that we are the agents of our own ill-health and difficulties - if we just did the "right" things we would be ok.

We get the message that it's our fault.  We feel blamed.  It hurts - like salt in the wound.

It may well be true that if we did things differently we could be healthier.  But that doesn't mean if we are unwell or upset we are somehow to blame - silly, slack, hopeless, failing in some way.  But often that's what it can feel like.

Maybe we are struggling, are not confident about how best to care for ourselves.  Maybe we need help and support.  We may be working very hard and be much more informed and skilled at caring for our health than we used to be, or even than others are.  Or maybe we don't feel compelled to do some things just because other people think we should.

  • We will very likely be doing the best that we can do given our circumstances
  • But when we try to improve our well being we may be tripped up by unhelpful unkind ideas
  • If we want to feel better, unkindness gets in the way
  • Encouragement helps us much more than criticism
  • We are undermined by attacks on what we experience as our weaknesses
  • We are strengthened by building on the safe foundations of the things we can do  

The good news

The capacity for kindness is inherent in human beings, it is an important part of being human.  Cooperation and collaboration enabled our ancestors (and continues to help us) to thrive.  Life was not only about "fight or flight."  It was also about strength in numbers - and that is only a positive if we also developed the skills of sharing and ensuring the common good.  We did.

Social science research is yielding robust evidence for positive health benefits from kindness.  Being kind improves our physical and mental health.

I hope that we can all enjoy kindness.  I know that many people find it more possible to be kind to others than it is to be kind to themselves.  Even if you think of yourself as a curmudgeon or if your heart is barely moved by a devoted pet - if you choose to, you can build up your capacity for kindness.

Health benefits of kindness


I want you to know, loud and clear:

If we are wanting to feel better - less anxious, less depressed, less overwhelmed, less unworthy - there is something we can do.  It can be surprisingly challenging but it feels good, has no bad side effects, and is liable to improve our well being in all kinds of unexpected and welcome ways. 

We can bring the focus to kindness.

  • We can develop and strengthen the skill of kindness - in our attitudes, our ways of treating ourselves and others, and in our deeds.  

  • If each of us does this we are not only helping ourselves - we will be helping all of us.  A person who lives in kindness creates an atmosphere that lifts and benefits us all.

  • And that is what this is all about.

Getting started


 
 

A little kindness experiment:

 

See if you can find a space where you can just be, quiet, at ease,

even if only for a moment or two-

where your energy can be lighter,

your heart can feel calmer,

and

you can be still, in the peace of just being there.

 

 

 

If you can, allow that moment to really sink in,

and let it stay with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20100307_blueballoon_0002.jpg

To keep in touch for more...

All very well, you might say.  But what is the practical application?  How do I work on kindness when I am feeling so overwhelmed by everything ?  Isn't it selfish anyway? - I mean, look at the world, so many people suffering!  And how could kindness make a difference to all the bad things happening?   You are aware of the idea that kindness is important - maybe you could just keep an open mind - curious, not dismissing it out of hand.

Or your thoughts might be more along the lines of - yet more things I'm not getting right, I know I shouldn't be so down on myself, but I keep messing up, I don't do the things I could, and if I don't hassle myself I wouldn't get anything done.  So it all feels too much right now.  And if that's the case, that's ok - it's unkind to pressure ourselves to be kind!   You can just say - interesting idea, maybe a tiny bit of my awareness can look for kindness while I continue in survival mode.

There are lots of ideas and answers to these concerns and the many questions you might have.  There are many practical ways to bring kindness into the quest to feel better and enjoy greater wellbeing.  And kindness can help us in our response to the distressing things we see and experience in the world around us. 

This is the beginning here - and these are the things that I will be sharing with you from now on if you want to keep in touch.  I know that they have been very helpful for many people, certainly for me.  But if this does not seem a good fit for you, remember that there are many many opportunities to find help and support that affirms you.  All the best either way!

honeybee.jpg