The Power of Kindness

We all know that being kind and doing nice things for others is a positive experience, but did you know it can change your brain!? The power of kindness is very strong and positive psychology suggests that the more we do things for others, the happier we are ourselves.

Our brains tend to have a negative cognitive bias which means that we typically focus on the negative events they are happening around us and discount all of the positive events. For example, have you ever stubbed your toe or been stuck in traffic which causes you to feel upset or irritable and seems to make you forget about the good things that happened, like your son got an A+ on his science test, or you remembered to pack your lunch that day, or even that you received a “good job” from your boss at work? Although our brains tend to generate negative thoughts, the good news is that we can combat that negative thinking by challenging automatic thoughts, focusing on the positive and using gratitude and kindness.

So what are random acts of kindness and how do we practice them? A random act of kindness is when you decide to do something nice for someone else, just because you can. For example, paying for the coffee for the person behind you at the drive thru or in line at Dunkin Donuts, holding the door open for someone whose hands are full or leaving a nice note for a co-worker on their desk to remind them that they are doing a good job. Random acts of kindness typically are events that have no obvious benefit for ourselves, but we do them because it feels like a nice thing to do. The great part about random acts of kindness is that they promote positive thoughts and emotions for us personally.Performing an act of kindness helps increase the “happy chemicals” in the brain, which include dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins.

Dopamine: helps motivate you to take action towards goals and desires and produces an increase of pleasure once we achieve those goals.

Serotonin: a chemical is produced when you feel important, valued or appreciated.

Oxytocin: a release of this chemical promotes trust, intimacy and strengthens relationships.

Endorphins: helps in response to acute pain or stress which helps reduce the effect of anxiety or depression.

Practicing acts of kindness also promotes compassion, patience, empathy and reduces stress. Simply witnessing someone else perform an act of kindness promotes positive results internally! Have you ever noticed yourself smiling when someone else is getting their picture taken? It can feel a bit silly, but seeing someone else happy can make you happy as a result. Doesn’t is make you feel good when you see a stranger help someone across the street, or offer change to a stranger who is short at the parking meter?Now that we know all about how beneficial acts of kindness can be for ourselves and those around us, here is a list of some ideas to get you started on your kindness journey:

1. Give someone a compliment

2. Visit an old friend

3. Let someone ahead of you in a traffic jam

4. Put change in a vending machine

5. Help clean up a mess

6. Donate food to a food drive or shelter

7. Write a letter to a relative

8. Make a bird feeder

9. Pick up litter

10. Snap a photo for a couple

11. Open the door for someone

12. Send someone a small gift anonymously

13. Text a friend to say you’re thinking of them

14. Bringing someone a coffee, just how they like it

15. Volunteer at an animal shelter

16. Bring in a neighbors trash bins

17. Smile at strangers

18. Shovel someone’s driveway

19. Leave a nice note on someone’s car

20. Tell someone how they have positively impacted your day

Mindful Moments

Often times it is easy to hold a grudge or to feel stuck in the past and to let those experiences hinder the present moment. Whether it is about an old friend, partner, co-worker or family member, it is sometimes hard to let go of negative experiences from the past. Using mindfulness can be a great technique to help let go of the past and feel ready to embrace the future.We frequently hear the word “mindfulness” and sometimes are not sure what it means or how to incorporate it into our daily lives. The following 4 skills are a great start to begin practicing mindfulness (without meditating in the dark for hours):

Being in the moment: This is really the core component to mindfulness. Being in the present moment often reminds us of the good old phrase, “Stop and smell the roses,” and it can be taken that literal. Being in the moment is about using our senses to be aware ourselves in our surroundings. Be sure to take time every day to notice what is happening around you using sight, touch, smell, taste and sound. Notice how your morning coffee tastes with every sip, really listen to the birds chirping, or even the spring smell of fresh cut grass. This will help with reducing anxiety and depression by being focused on the current moment and reducing thoughts about the past or worries about the future.

Openness to experience: Being open to experience means embracing the good and the bad. Practice waking up each day and using gratitude and a tool to start the day on a positive note, which can help reduce stress during negative experiences. Remember that each experience is an opportunity to learn something new which will help growth and progress in the future.

Participate fully: It can be easy to sit on the sidelines and watch every minute, day and even year of our lives fly by. This is why it is important to really jump in and participate in each experience that comes our way, whether it is good or bad. Making memories is a part of life and participating fully in each experience will help create meaningful and impactful memories and relationships.

Non-judgmental awareness: Sadness, anger and stress are difficult emotions that can be hard to bear, but be sure to not blame yourself for feeling those emotions. Positive and negative emotions are part of the human experience and when we remove the judgements about those emotions, they can become easier to cope with. Try thinking about emotions and feelings as an ocean wave that comes and goes, sometimes very strong, or sometimes very subtle. Ocean waves are inevitable, just as our emotions. Try not to beat yourself up for having a bad day and remember that those emotions will fade, just as the ocean wave recedes.

Yogi: “a person who is proficient in yoga”

When I decided to name my blog “Yogi_Meliss”, I did some research and found that the official definition of yogi (who knew there was such as thing) is as follows: “a person who is proficient in yoga.” This got me thinking. What does it mean to be proficient in something? The research continues…The definition of proficient is as follows: “competent or skilled in doing or using something.”

If you are anything like me, you know what it is like to be very “Type A” and, well, a perfectionist. My desire to be perfect at my job, in my relationships, at yoga, during meditation, and in life in general is usually a good trait to have. It keeps me motivated and it compels me to always do my best, no matter what. However, sometimes being a perfectionist means talking down to myself when I do fail (because duh, failure happens) and beating myself up when things don’t turn out as planned. Sometimes I can also be a little competitive, so if I try something and I am not “perfect” at it, I will decide just not to do it…and go do something I know I am good at. This is where my journey with yoga began. Something new and different that I had never done, and I wanted to be the best. I wanted to be the most bendy, the most flexible and do cool handstands to post on my instagram page. What I gained from my journey with yoga (so far) has been so much more fulfilling than getting a bunch of likes on an instagram post. My journey with yoga over the last 4+ years has taught me this (in addition to many other things): it is okay not to be perfect. Not just in yoga, but in all areas of life.

My hopes for this blog is to share my journey on and off the yoga mat to maybe inspire others to try something new and to fail at it. And to not just be okay with failing, but to be HAPPY about failing. Sounds weird, right? But just think about all of the times you have grown throughout your life, and when you look back you will see that you grew in times of challenge and hardship. Learning to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable is how we face challenges head on, fail, and then try again and again and again. So stay tuned, and lets have some epic fails together.