Mental Health: Kindness goes a long way

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

Henry James, noted American/British writer, 1843-1916

I have always been an astute observer of people; whether individually or in crowds. Perhaps that is what led me to extensive studies in the sociological and psychological sciences, and studying ancient cultures in my anthropological, archaeological experiences; and my counseling career. Human behavior has always been most fascinating to me; but most particularly in the realm of our treatment of others.

Our dictionaries define “kindness” as “Of good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person…compassion, humane, gracious.” “Kind” implies a “deep-seated characteristic shown either habitually or on an occasion by considerate behavior.”

As Children we are taught by our parents and other significant others about kindness at a very early age, and its polar opposite; cruelty; not unlike the virtues of “being good versus being bad.” Kindness is not an “automatic” attribute that develops among the young, it is not a survival instinct; like many other facets it must be learned; to become a thought out, memory process in the cerebral cortex area of the brain.

Teaching our children about kindness also teaches them about respect for others, and many other values that are so essential to their growth and development. I am most pleased when I observe children having respect and consideration for their parents, teachers, siblings, and friends; which most children have.

I am one who believes that the majority of our populous are kind and considerate…I have learned and experienced much kindness from others in my life. Yet, I am also aware that there are those who are not kind; those that do not have the respect and consideration of others.

Acts of kindness are most evident all the time, such as the people who assisted my wife and I on a recent flight back to Harlingen from Houston…folks helping us to ambulate through those security lines, helping us place our baggage into the overhead bins on the plane, etc. Those were unconditional acts of kindness…those individuals learned well as children about kindness. I am also aware of people being unkind.

While awaiting my wife who was shopping in the local grocers, I observed a couple who were pushing a shopping cart. A large package of toilet tissues fell off of the back of their cart, and the couple did not notice it. Following behind was another couple, who immediately picked up the package and placed it in their cart. As the first couple was only about 40 feet ahead of the second, I naturally assumed that they would notify the couple that the package had fallen out, as they saw the couple in front of them, and they would return the package to them. Well, they did not.

They placed it in their car along with their other groceries and drove away. Not only was this an act of unkindness, but it was also theft…those individuals were either not taught about kindness as children, or were totally “absent” when the lessons were taught. Perhaps that couple who lost the tissues were poor, with young children, and in real need of the tissues, and could not really afford the $14.00 or so that the large package of toilet tissues cost…who knows? I was reminded of a quote by the Greek philosopher Plato at this juncture; “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”

No battles are as hard fought, however, as those fought by individuals and families suffering from the effects of mental illness or physical diseases such as Cancer, etc.

For the person with a mental illness and other chronic diseases, offering them kindness not only affords them help with their self esteem, but also increases the self esteem of the person offering the kindness. Recently we “celebrated” “Random Acts of Kindness Month.”

Now, I am not against these events, as I know they bring awareness education to the forefront, and I have been actively involved in many of these events over the years; “Alcohol Awareness Month,” “Drug Awareness Month,” “Treatment Works Awareness Month,” “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” etc. I suggest that we should always be cognizant of the issues throughout the year; to be aware, kind, and considerate of those so afflicted only during those month events is an affront to all of them.

Kindness should not be measured by timely events, kindness should be ever present. Being kind to others is not something that one “feels” that they may be compelled to do, it is something that the person should want to do.

I have recently written articles on the brain, and the associated neurochemicals present in the brain and how they function. One of the neurochemicals, and associated sub-neurochemicals, that are placed into operation in the brain when one performs an act of kindness are endorphins. Endorphins are those chemicals released which make us “feel good.”

They are released during physical and mental exercises, they are released during periods of elation, and they are released when we do something kind for others. The feelings we receive, in turn, increases our sense of self-esteem and self-worth…we just feel better about ourselves. It is with thoughts that give way to feelings of wanting to do the same thing over and over again, to continue on a perpetual path of affording kindness to others. But, always remember that thoughts come before feelings, and we should always keep our intellect over our emotions: To quote the late Father Joseph Martin, “I over E.”

I am very much aware of the kindness shown toward myself and others by persons in our Community. Being an elderly physically disabled person, with some difficulty ambulating with my cane through doorways and such, I am most grateful to that person who holds a door open for me; or through other means of kindness; having accessibility means so much. Showing kindness to our relatives, friends, and others should always be a “no brainer.”

But, there are many other ways that we can exhibit kindness; thanking that law enforcement officer or those in the military for their service comes to mind…that act of kindness means so much to them; I know because I have “been there.” Kindness leads to reciprocation… being kind creates kindness…it most certainly goes a long way.

Until Next Time, Stay Healthy My Friends!