Most of us know that the way in which we habitually use our bodies, creates changes in our tissues that become the new norm. The more knowledge we gain about functional movement, the better equipped we are at attending to physical dysfunction. Did you know that the same is true with the brain? The thoughts, emotions and actions that you choose to breathe life into will create and strengthen neural pathways that will become more easily accessible in the future. The way in which you use your brain will become your “new norm”, even if that new norm causes you to suffer.
Similar to the body, when we attend to mental and emotional dysfunction, we look for new and healthier habits to replace the negative ones. This replacement is done with the intention that they will alleviate our suffering and bring a sense of ease. The truth of the matter is that we all seek joy and happiness in this lifetime. We simply lose sight of the fact that we are in charge of how we choose to cultivate this joy.
One positive habit that has been connected to sustainable happiness and joy is kindness. A number of studies in neuroplasticity and the brain, show that acts of kindness help us to create neural pathways that enhance feelings of well-being. This mood elevation is a result of the release of feel-good endorphins, as well as mood elevating neurotransmitters.
When it comes to kindness, there really is no excuse. These acts can be practiced, by anyone, anywhere, anytime, and at no cost. Kindness also does not have to be expressed through grand gestures, but can be shared through a smile, a kind word, taking the time to listen to someone, a helping hand, encouragement and support, allowing others to shine, being gentle not only with others, but also with ourselves. Find ways in your life to be patient and understanding with yourself, taking care of yourself and holding yourself in kind regard.
Studies also show that choosing to be a positive force in the world, is contagious. One kind act begets another, leading other people to pay it forward. It is through kindness that we express compassion and empathy (realizing that we all suffer), generosity, patience, honesty, and gratitude. It is also through kindness, and the resulting joy, that we become better equipped to let go of grudges and emotional baggage.
Remember that where you are right now is a result of your decisions and choices. Kindness is always a choice, and if practiced, it will become your new norm. It is through kindness that we plant the seeds for sustainable joy and happiness. Why not be kind? What do you have to lose?
“The simplest acts of kindness are far more powerful
than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” — Mahatma Gandhi