Kindness and Humility: Foundations of Positive Mental Health
We live in a world teeming with social media activity, achievements, aspirations, and competitions. Every day, we find ourselves among people outdoing each other not just in life, necessarily, but via social media posts. Relatives, people we know in our personal lives, people we only know on social media, colleagues, influencers.... Most of them appear to be reaching new heights and setting new standards. We are all also familiar, at least to some extent, with the darker side of this positive-sounding opening to this week's blog post: meanness, bullying, shaming, and humiliation. Amidst the daily grind of life, including social media, for some, it's all too easy to forget the fundamental virtues of kindness and humility. Yet, these two attributes play pivotal roles in promoting positive mental health, not only for ourselves but also for those around us.
The Magic of Kindness
It's no surprise that kindness is often lauded as a universal virtue. From one corner of our world to another, we're familiar with the kindness some bestow on others: helping the elderly person across the street, participating in building homes for humanity, volunteers in all sorts of positions, or even shoveling your neighbor's sidewalk during a brutal winter. Beyond being a moral imperative, however, kindness has surprisingly tangible benefits for our mental health. Here’s how:
1. Elevated Mood: A variety of studies have shown that acts of kindness release dopamine, a natural antidepressant in our brains. This phenomenon, often referred to as the "helper’s high" explains why we feel elevated states of mood when we help someone.
2. Reduced Stress: Engaging in acts of kindness can lead to decreased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Reduced cortisol equals not just elevated mood and reductions in the feelings of stress, but it also has physical health benefits. As such, over time, reduced stress can significantly lower the risk of mental health disorders and physical ailments.
3. Building Connections: Kindness fosters trust and builds stronger social connections. Feeling connected and having a sense of belonging is vital for our mental well-being.
4. Counteracting Loneliness: Acts of kindness can be instrumental in alleviating feelings of isolation. Even small gestures, like a smile or a compliment, can make a difference...because we feel slightly more connected to other people, a la item number 3 above.
The Grace of Humility
Often overshadowed by virtues that are louder and more attention-grabbing, humility is a silent force that grounds us. Humility is one of those virtues that is silent, largely because while kindness is more of a verb, at least in the respect we use it here, humility is a noun. Inamuch, humility is less doing and more being. Let's take a moment to explore the profound implications of humility on our mental health:
1. Promotes Learning: A humble individual acknowledges they don’t have all the answers. This perspective fosters a mindset open to learning and personal growth.
2. Mitigates Anxiety: When we're humble, we free ourselves from the constant pressure of proving our worth to others. We accept our strengths and recognize our weaknesses, and this can significantly reduce anxiety levels.
3. Facilitates Apology: Humility allows us to accept our mistakes and apologize sincerely. This not only helps in repairing relationships but also in alleviating guilt. Additionally, these acts foster self-compassion.
4. Builds Genuine Relationships: Humility paves the way for authenticity. When we are genuine, our relationships are rooted in trust and mutual respect, forming a vital support system for our mental well-being.
Kindness and Humility: Two Sides of the Same Coin
While kindness focuses outwardly on our interactions with others, humility is more introspective. Together, they create a balance that promotes positive mental health. When we are kind, we create an environment of warmth and trust. When we are humble, we cultivate a space of acceptance and learning. Both virtues help us build resilience against life's challenges.
Furthermore, kindness and humility often intersect. A humble person is more likely to be kind, recognizing that everyone is fighting their battle. Conversely, engaging in acts of kindness can cultivate humility, as it makes us more aware of the broader world and our place within it.
How Does One Cultivate Kindness and Humility?
1. Practice Self-awareness: Regularly reflect on your actions and intentions. Understand your motivations and recognize when you're acting out of ego rather than genuine concern.
2. Empathize: Put yourself in another's shoes. This can foster kindness as well as humility, as you understand and appreciate others' experiences and perspectives.
3. Gratitude Journal: Keeping a daily or weekly gratitude journal can make us more appreciative of what we have and the people around us. It cultivates both kindness (towards those who have enriched our lives) and humility (by acknowledging the role of others in our well-being).
4. Seek Feedback: Regularly ask trusted friends or family for feedback. They can offer a different perspective and help us grow both in our acts of kindness and our humility.
In a world where we often prioritize achievements and appearances, let’s not forget the profound power of kindness and humility. They are more than just virtues; they are essential components for sound mental well-being. By embracing them, we not only enrich our lives but also make the world a bit brighter for everyone around us.