Relationships and the Mind/Body/Spirit Balance - Part 2: Kindness to Strangers
In the August issue of The Pawling Record, I addressed the concept of thoughtfulness and kindness and and how romance – or simply showing consideration – facilitates the flow of positive energy. This article takes that premise one step deeper into the self-healing realm. Can performing acts of gratuitous kindness impact mind, body, and spirit balance? The answer is unequivocally “yes.” The next questions become: What impact might that performance have on mind/body/spirit balance? Can the mind, body, and/or spirit be healed by performing acts of gratuitous kindness? If so, how?
To answer these questions, research shows that investing energy into performing acts of kindness can actually ameliorate feelings of loneliness and “the blues.” While depression (major as well as minor) requires the attention of professional healthcare providers in both primary and specialized care settings, there are additional interventions that may be used to complement therapeutic efforts. Specifically, we know that a bad mood, even minor depression, is often associated with feelings of isolation and lack of self-worth. The next time you feel blue, you might try performing a random act of kindness to help out another person – preferably someone you’ve never seen before and have no particular plans to see again. That is, do something kind for a stranger. You will almost certainly rediscover within yourself a boost in feelings of self-worth and personal value as you connect with another human through your act of generosity and kindness. This is empowering and healing not only because it counters the disconnectedness that feeds loneliness and minor depression, but on the cellular level your body responds to the positive vibration (aka positive energy) in measurable terms.
When we feel empowered through positive vibrations, there is a cascade of neurotransmitters that flow throughout the body. Taking a deep breath oxygenates the blood, and this pleases the brain. Laughter, taking a deliberate cleansing breath, and even mindfully meditating while incorporating this breathing technique balances the mind, body, and spirit. The aforementioned techniques are used to boost dopamine in the brain, calm the sympathetic nervous system by reducing cortisol and adrenaline, and engage the parasympathetic nervous system, encouraging the release of acetylcholine. The result is calming of the gastrointestinal system and relaxation of the musculoskeletal system which, in turn, energize the spirit and improve mood.
So the next time you feel a bad mood coming on – after you figure out that it isn’t a food allergy, lack of sleep, a nutritional deficiency, low blood sugar, or anything else you can clearly pinpoint and resolve (and if it is, you need to address it so you stay physically safe) – chances are you will be able to give your mood a boost by just investing energy in doing something nice for someone else.
Of course, you may do something nice for a friend or loved one – as long as it is with no expectations of anything other than a smile in gratitude for your thoughtfulness. Here’s to making the world a more peaceful, united, healthier, and happier place one act of kindness at a time.
Dr. Nancy Iankowitz is a board certified family nurse practitioner and Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC. She is also host of “Marcy’s World” on Pawling Public Radio. Email your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call (917) 716-6802, or visit www.driankowitz.com online.