By: Laura Norman
Special to the Boca and Delray newspaper
The season for giving gifts is upon us. Children are making their lists, spouses are dropping hints about what they would like to get, holiday card lists are being compiled.
And once the gifts are unwrapped and holiday cards read, how many of these gifts and cards will be put away soon after? Quite a few, if my own experience is any benchmark.
What if there is a gift that costs nothing, continues to grow once given, can be shared freely while still having more of it yourself, and that makes you and those who receive your gift feel fantastic?
What is this miraculous gift? Kindness.
Ever notice how being kind to someone makes you feel? Altruism actually triggers a chemical reaction, releasing serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine, our brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals. And your brain creates new neural pathways when you’re kind, rewarding and reinforcing your desire to live a positive, kinder life.
There are many ways to make kindness and compassion a part of our daily lives. Here are some that I have found helpful on my own journey.
Smile. It’s easy, costs nothing and is renewable. It’s also contagious. Smile at someone and their immediate reaction is to smile back. The act of smiling floods your brain with endorphins. An added bonus–smiling lowers your blood pressure and relieves stress.
Listen and Empathize. Empathy and kindness are two sides of the same coin. Sometimes just listening is the greatest gift you can give a person. When a friend or family member is having a tough time, they may just need to talk. They could have just received devastating news or may be dealing with all kinds of challenges. You may be able to help, and just being there for them is a powerful act of kindness.
Practice appreciation and gratitude. Make it a daily practice to count your blessings. Research has shown that people are happier when they appreciate the good things in their lives. And your brain responds! The parts of the brain associated with stress shrink, while the regions associated with self-awareness and compassion grow.
Be a role model. The world needs kindness now more than ever. And kindness is contagious. Choose to be kind everyday. Make it a habit to treat people with compassion and empathy. Choosing to be kind, regardless of your mood, can even turn a cranky day into a happier one. Your brain receives the message that all is well, and before you know it you’re feeling better. And when you’re kind to others you set up a virtuous kindness feedback loop. They feel better and are inspired to treat others more kindly. And so it goes, from person to person in an ever-widening circle.
Laura Norman, M.S., LMT, world-renowned Holistic Reflexologist and author of the best-selling book, Feet First: A Guide to Foot Reflexology, offers private Holistic Reflexology and Inspired Life Coaching sessions in Delray Beach and Holistic Reflexology Certification Training Programs in Boynton Beach starting Jan. 19. Visit www.lauranorman.com • Call 561-272-1220