“No act of kindness is too small. The gift of kindness may start as a small ripple that over time can turn into a tidal wave affecting the lives of many.” ~Kevin Heath
When I started this blog in January of 2015, it was going to be a one-year deep-dive into kindness. It has resulted in eight years of diligent and then sporadic blogging, mostly about kindness, but sometimes other topics that caught my fancy (jazz, baseball, cats, books, nature, politics….). It also resulted in my 2018 book, A Year of Living Kindly (YOLK), which is now in its 9th printing, with multiple literary awards, and several foreign language editions (that’s the end of the shameless self-promotion, I promise). Another result: gratitude—so much gratitude—for this blogging community and the friends I have made through it, as well as the wonderful people I’ve met through my publisher, book talks, book clubs, and YOLK events.
As we commence 2023, my hope is that enough of us are tired of divisive politics, rampant incivility, and misguided actions driven by fear and prejudice, and we’re ready to transform the world by actively choosing kindness. Realizing that in my first and most prolific year of blogging about kindness, there weren’t many people following this blog, I thought I’d revisit and update some of those early posts. There’s more to say on some topics, and less on others. There are nuances and new ahas.
For those of you who have followed this blog since the earliest days, thank you! I hope you’ll still find new ideas and good reminders. For more recent community members, may you find what you were hoping for when you signed up to follow. I’ll try to keep posts short and to-the-point.
For this first “rebooted” post, let’s revisit one big reason why kindness matters, and why we need to choose it every day:
Unkindness is contagious . . . so is kindness
Researchers at the University of Florida found that rudeness is contagious. It spreads like a cold or the flu—or COVID—and is passed from one person to the next until nearly everybody’s got it. Not only do people who are subject to unkind treatment themselves subsequently behave unkindly, even those who only witness unkindness succumb to rude behaviors.
Lead researcher Trevor Foulk stated, “It’s very easy to catch. Just a single incident, even observing a single incident, can cause you to be more rude…. Rudeness is contagious, when I experience it, I become rude.”
Doesn’t that explain a lot about the world we’re living in today? We’re experiencing an epidemic of incivility.
But the good news from science is that kindness works the same way. If we experience kindness—whether extending a kindness, receiving it, or even just witnessing kind actions—we are more likely to be kind in our next encounters. It has a wonderful ripple effect: our kindness causes someone else to be kind, and that action inspires still more kindness. And so on…. We’ll never know just how far our kindness extends.
Dr. David Hamilton, a leading researcher in the science of kindness, further finds that in extending kindness and compassion, we change our brains. He says that acts of kindness “find their way into the chemistry and structure of our brain. If kindness becomes a habit, we can significantly alter the wiring of our brain.”
It’s exciting to think that in every encounter we have, each of us has a choice of which contagion we want to spread. Kindness or unkindness—it’s up to us.
It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not as easy as it may sound. Things get in the way. We’ll explore some of those barriers in future posts.
For now, let’s each try to remember that every time we choose kindness, it’s a catalyst for more kindness. And that’s how we change can the world in 2023.
“We are still in the position of waking up and having a choice. Do I make the world better today somehow, or do I not bother?” ~Tom Hanks