I’ve written a lot about the links between kindness and ageing, and part of my focus has been that kindness is the opposite of stress, at least in terms of how it makes us feel and the physiological consequences of those feelings.
I’ve been thinking a bit recently about finding the balance between accepting things as they are and going with the flow and asserting your will or pushing for what you want. There’s a balance. There’s a time and a place for both...
Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to other people and animals. Empathy is being able to see the world or a situation from someone else’s perspective and also appreciate how they might feel. Empathy can even be in walking in someone else’s shoes, so to speak.
Kindness is highly contagious. It’s more contagious, in fact, than the cold. The contagiousness of kindness is powered by what’s known as ‘elevation’, a description coined by social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt. It’s a sense of warmth, satisfaction, expansion, even gratitude.
The brain, in many ways, doesn’t distinguish real from imaginary. Take a simple example of stress. Your brain responds to a stressful situation by releasing stress hormones. But your brain also releases the stress hormones when you remember a past stressful event or even when you vividly imagine one.
I spent some time in New York City last weekend. I’m writing a series of pieces for Psychologies Magazine called ‘The Kindness Conversation’ where I basically have, well, conversations about kindness. In New York, I had my kindness conversation with Cynthia Germanotta, mother of Lady Gaga.
When I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, the placebo effect was frequently dismissed as ‘all in the mind’ or ‘psychosomatic’. It wasn’t a real improvement, it was believed, merely that people ‘think’ they’re feeling better.
I recently chatted with a girl who has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was a child. Now in her late 20s, she’s taken painkillers for years. When she was first diagnosed, a nurse instructed her to imagine her painkillers travelling to her joints and then dissolving into little particles and spreading out over the joints, soothing them and reducing swelling and pain.