Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk about the ways that you can become more kind and compassionate in your everyday life. Because the thing is that these are skills that we can learn and get better at, just like riding a bike.
Let’s start with what these social behaviors are. Kindness is when you are friendly, generous and considerate towards other people. Being compassionate means that you are motivated to alleviate the suffering of others when you see it. These two social behaviors are strong producers of oxytocin which is the hormone that is associated with human bonding. Research has shown that those individuals with higher levels of oxytocin will gain a protective buffer against mental illness. You will be less likely to have schizophrenia, but if you have it your symptoms will be less severe. It will even offer you protection against depression and suicide. But this benefit will also extend to your children. Higher levels of oxytocin reduce the chances of your children having psychopathy.
These means that even if your kindness and compassion does not generate lasting relationships in your life, you are going to benefit from it as if you had those relationships. However, research also shows that having kindness and compassion are the traits that are most likely to lead a person to bonding with others. People want to be friends with other people that they believe have a genuine regard for their well being. So, it is more likely that practicing these social behaviors will help you with building friendships as well, offering another source of the psychologically protective oxytocin.
Alright, so we benefit from our being kind and compassionate as much as the people we are reaching out to. But how does one go about getting better at these skills?
The first and most important step is to insure that you are taking care of yourself. We are never capable of being fully kind and compassionate people when our own needs are not being met. It is the fundamental principal of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This means that you need to be sure that you are keeping track of the silverware you have available to use. It means that we need to do our best to always have spoons available so that we have the capacity for kindness and compassion. But it also means that we need to give ourselves, and others, grace when all we have available is knives. Because there are just times when we cannot muster anything else.
Gather your spoons and go out into the world with intention. Start your day by making the conscious commitment to do your best to offer everyone you meet kindness and compassion. This will help put you in the right mind set. Once you are out in the world it is essential that you begin to watch and notice the people around you. Most of the cruelty caused by humanity comes not from active choice, but rather from pure indifference. When we do not pay attention to the people around us, it is not possible for us to notice their needs and to offer them help. You can only hold the door open for the person coming behind you if you see that they are behind you.
All kindness and compassion begins with this effort to notice. When you pass someone on the street, make a point to note one thing about them. What color was their hair? What were they carrying in their hands? What kind of shirt did they have on? Practice noticing these mundane and unimportant details and you will be forced to see that there are people around you. Once you are seeing the people around you the noticing of need will happen without any additional effort. You will see the person and notice that they are struggling to open the door because of full hands.
Noticing others is really the root of it all. Without this, you will never be afforded the opportunity to make the choice to help those that are around you. When you notice that they are struggling with the door, you can offer to open it for them or to hold one of their bags a moment. And it will be these small gestures of kindness and compassion 90% of the time. But don’t fool yourself into believing that they are irrelevant. Our brains cannot measure kindness. Our brains respond in the same manner regardless if it is a grand gesture or a small one. This means that we can truly heal depression and schizophrenia simply by saying hello and opening the door for others. The trick in this is that we all need to be doing it all of the time so that everyone will always be flooded with the protective shield of oxytocin.
Noticing the suffering of others will, on occasion, lead you into situations where there is nothing that you can do to remove the thing that has caused the person to suffer. In times of grieving a loved one or getting a terrible diagnosis, there is nothing that we can do to erase that suffering. But we can still offer them the benefits of kindness and compassion by offering them emotional space. In these times, this is the single most healing thing that another person can offer.
The last thing about kindness and compassion is having good boundaries. You must maintain good boundaries to maintain your kindness and compassion. Giving of yourself until you are used up will benefit no one in the long run. Not to mention that if you are giving at the price of yourself it will be hollow and it not going to generate the desired oxytocin in either you or the person you are helping. Because we can tell when people are not really interested in helping and they are only doing it because they feel they have to. There are times that we simply cannot help people. This can be because we are not properly equipped or they are not receptive. Either way, there are times that the better option is to simply disengage and walk away. This is the ultimate boundary.
I also want to offer you some thoughts regarding perspective. When I am dealing with someone who is behaving poorly, I try to consider what is generating that behavior. I first assume that the person is operating on a knife day and that is the reason that they are not handling the situation well. In those times, I offer these people grace, as I would want to be given grace when I am having a knife day. If we approach mean, angry or irrational people this way we are more likely to maintain our kindness and compassion then if we label them an asshole or Karen.
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!
- Oxytocin Pathways and the Evolution of Human Behavior
- Methylation of the oxytocin receptor gene and oxytocin blood levels in the development of psychopathy
- Peripheral oxytocin is associated with reduced symptom severity in schizophrenia
- Low CSF oxytocin reflects high intent in suicide attempters
- Why Bad People Can’t be Good Friends