Did you know that November 13th was World Kindness Day? Neither did I but one thing is certain, it couldn't come at a better time of year.....Turkey Time!! A time of year when gratitude takes center stage and looks a lot like turkey and mashed potatoes! But it's also a time of year that, for many, can be stressful and challenging and filled with unpleasant memories or experiences.
So how can World Kindness Day help you cope with and hopefully overcome the ups and downs of the holiday season? Well turns out, acts of kindness do more than just make others feel good. Emily Ansell of Yale University School of Medicine led a research study last year that demonstrated how acts of kindness can protect us from the negative effects of stress and improve our overall emotional well-being.
Participants in Ansell’s study were surveyed everyday via their smart phone about daily experiences including stressful life events, helpful behaviors such as random acts of kindness and daily emotions. The researchers found that those who performed more acts of kindness throughout the day were less likely to report negative emotions and were better able to maintain positive emotions. On days when participants performed fewer acts of kindness, they reported fewer positive emotions and more negative reactions to stress.
Another interesting study relates to the benefits of gratitude. Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami compared three groups; one wrote about things they were grateful for during the past week, another wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them without labeling them as positive or negative.
After 10 weeks, the group that wrote about gratitude was more optimistic, reported better feelings about their life, exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.
So, what’s the take away from these research studies? While performing random acts of kindness and recording daily gratitude does not guarantee that your holidays will be less chaotic you may discover that you’re less negatively affected by the stress. Below are some suggestions to get you started.
1. Add thoughts of gratitude to your daily routines.
When you sit down for your morning coffee, instead of watching the news, reflect on something positive that happened the day before.
2. Make a point of smiling and saying hello or good morning to everyone you encounter.
Smiling releases “feel good” chemicals in your body that help you relax, boost your mood and cope with stress more effectively. And smiling is contagious so it’s a great way to “pay it forward”!
3. Do something kind and unexpected for a coworker or family member.
Watch this video or visit this website for ideas and inspiration.