The Power of Kindness
How to stimulate the brain and change the world.
What exactly is a random act of kindness? While Wikipedia takes a stab at defining it whatever is on Wikipedia is subject to continuous change. As a result there are numerous references on the Internet to Wikipedia definitions for the phrase, "Random acts of kindness" but all of them are different. Here is the latest incarnation of their definition.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
A random act of kindness is a selfless act performed by a person or people wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual person or people. Either spontaneous or planned, random acts of kindness are encouraged by various communities.
Any further search for a definitive definition for this phrase has been met with frustration, deception and despair, all reactions contrary to the whole concept of random acts of kindness.
Perhaps the problem with today is our pre-occupation with precisely defining what we are doing before we can do it. When there is confusion in terms of the definition, there can only be chaos in the execution or lack of execution.
In other words, maybe we just think to much.
Why in the world do we need definitions in order to do good? I mean do we really adhere to a world view that if it is not in Wikipedia or the Urban Dictionary then it cannot be right, or good or even worthwhile?
I use both resources on occasion but as a journalist I also realize that any effort to use democracy to create truth is doomed, and both resources do it.
What does that mean? Both services allow their definitions and other content to be submitted by the public, edited by the public, changed by the public and even interpreted by the public.
That sounds like a form of democracy, power to the people, regardless of whether the people know the subject or understand the power. It is like the French Revolution, a brutal and bloody overthrow of a monarchy in 1789 with no idea what to do if it succeeded. It took them three times to get it right.
Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as follows:
French Revolution, also called Revolution of 1789, the revolutionary movement that shook
between 1787 and 1799 and
reached its first climax there in 1789. Hence the conventional term “Revolution
of 1789,” denoting the end of the ancen régime in France and serving also to
distinguish that event from the later French revolutions of 1830 and 1848. France
So what exactly is a "Random act of kindness" and why should we care what it means?
Well, I say a "Random act of kindness" is a selfless and often spontaneous act performed to help others or to cheer them up. It is usually performed anonymously with no expectation for acknowledgement or recognition.
If we worried less about motive and reward and more about giving we would need no definition and no reason to act. It would be an everyday occurrence because it was just the right thing to do whenever you can do it.
But from a scientific perspective there may be compelling reasons why you really should be doing it every opportunity you may get.
Helping others feel good and happy might just be your ticket to happiness and to a whole lot of other people, and that sounds like a good thing.
Science has proven that the brain generates chemicals naturally, One of these is a hormone called serotonin found in the pineal gland, digestive tract and the brain. It serves to transmit nerve signals to nerve cells.
Changes in the hormone level can alter your mood by making you sad when the level goes down and making you happy when the level goes up. When you stay happy this endorphin protects you from depression while helping to strengthen your immune system.
Studies have proven when a person does a random act of kindness it not only increases the happy feeling, through production of more serotonin, for the recipient of this act of kindness, but also for the giver and anyone watching the act or reactions.
Imagine that, we spend billions of dollars on prescription drugs because we don't feel good only to feel worse and destroy our immune system in the process, when we could be feeling well by doing random acts of kindness.
Unfortunately, here in
it may be
difficult to find people able to react naturally to a random act of kindness. You see, if they are already under the influence
of prescription drugs their brain is no longer able to react naturally to such
acts of kindness. America
Think about this, based on our national addiction to legal, prescription drugs, one could conclude Americans are about the most depressed people on the planet. We have the highest standard of living, most expensive health care and education, more wealth and better homes and diets than most people.
Yet we have had a 400% increase in anti-depressant pill use the last two decades because of our depression. That figure comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not me.
Helplessness, hopelessness, and immobilization are now the fashionable keys to being good Americans and great fodder for social gatherings.
Sooo. Maybe our first random act of kindness should be to help people get off the drugs that are keeping them from being depressed in the first place. There are a host of prescriptions to take care of our plethora of mind illnesses.
Here are some of the manifestations of depression and mood swinging.
Which Drugs Are Abused?
The most commonly used prescription drugs fall into three classes:
Examples: oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and meperidine (Demerol)Medical uses: Opioids are used to treat pain or relieve coughs or diarrhea.
How they work: Opioids attach to opioid receptors in the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord), preventing the brain from receiving pain messages.
2. Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants
Examples: pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), diazepam (Valium), and alprazolam (Xanax)
Medical uses: CNS depressants are used to treat anxiety, tension, panic attacks, and sleep disorders.
How they work: CNS depressants slow down brain activity by increasing the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA. The result is a drowsy or calming effect.
Examples: methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall)
Medical uses: Stimulants can be used to treat narcolepsy and ADHD.
How they work: Stimulants increase brain activity, resulting in greater alertness, attention, and energy.
Here are some of the results of our obsession with depression.
Therapeutic Drug Use
(Data are for the
Percent of persons using at least one prescription drug in the past month: 48.5% (2007-2010)
Percent of persons using three or more prescription drugs in the past month: 21.7% (2007-2010)
Percent of persons using five or more prescription drugs in the past month: 10.6% (2007-2010)
Source: Health, United States, 2012, table 91 [PDF - 9.8 MB]
Physician office visits
Number of drugs ordered or provided: 2.6 billion
Percent of visits involving drug therapy: 75.1%
Most frequently prescribed therapeutic classes:
Source: National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2010 Summary Tables, tables 22, 23, 24 [PDF - 382 KB]
What other people are saying.
Imagine this! Kindness extended, received, or observed beneficially impacts the physical health and feelings of everyone involved!
Did you know that a single act of kindness can; bring a rush of euphoria, followed by a longer period of calm, reduce stress, increase the sense of self worth, happiness, and optimism, lower blood pressure, diminish pain, an increased sense of self-worth, greater happiness and optimism, translate to immense immune and healing benefits, increase a sense of self-worth, greater happiness and optimism, enhance our feeling of joyfulness, helps reverse feelings of depression and lower the heart rate.
Kindness Breeds More Kindness: In findings sure to gladden the heart of anyone who's ever wondered whether tiny acts of kindness have larger consequences, researchers have shown that generosity is contagious.
Goodness spurs goodness, they found: A single act can influence dozens more.
The positive effect of kindness on the immune system and on the increased production of serotonin in the brain has been proven in research studies. Serotonin is a naturally occurring substance in the body that makes us feel more comfortable, peaceful, and even blissful.
In fact, the role of most anti-depressants is to stimulate the production of serotonin chemically, helping to ease depression. Research has shown that a simple act of kindness directed toward another improves the functioning of the immune system and stimulates the production of serotonin in both the recipient of the kindness and the person extending the kindness.
Even more amazing is that persons observing the act of kindness have similar beneficial results. Imagine this! Kindness extended, received, or observed beneficially impacts the physical health and feelings of everyone involved!
Kindness isn't just a fluffy, feel-good, warm-fuzzy concept. It is a powerful, energetic experience that transforms both the giver and recipient at such deep levels that some say it can work miracles. When we open our hearts and reach out to others in kindness, our brain releases endorphins—the morphine-like chemicals that produce the feelings of exhilaration know as the "runner's high." Acts of kindness, according to researcher Paul Persall, also cause your brain to release "Substance P," a neurotransmitter chemical that blocks pain. These two powerful physiological processes have an immense influence on our body/mind/spirit and the way that we experience life.
A steady flow of endorphins and Substance P through our bodies strengthens our immune system, keeps us feeling happy, joyful, optimistic and energized. This heightens our sense of well being so that we feel calmer, more centered and focused no matter what kind of stressful events might be happening around us. Physiologically, these brain chemicals improve circulation, reduce blood pressure, increase body warmth and improve weight control. Kindness helps us relax so that we can connect with others and with our own good feelings.
Janae Weinhold, Ph.D.
Now heal thyself and then help heal the world.