Our biggest community effort has been to start and sustain a “Random Acts of Kindness” movement in Beverly and the surrounding communities every February. We are a community that values and practices kindness, and with the #kindnessinbeverly, we’d like for the world to know that about our wonderful neighborhood.
Why kindness? According to David Hamilton, PhD, here are some of the wonderful benefits:
- On a biochemical level, kindness elevates levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin, which we know as endogenous opioids. They cause elevated levels of dopamine in the brain and so we get a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.
- Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body. Oxytocin expands the blood vessels, reduces blood pressure, reduces inflammation, is cardio-protective for heart health, and slows aging!
- There have also been suggestions in the scientific journals of the strong link between compassion and the activity of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, as well as regulating heart rate, also controls inflammation levels in the body. One study that used the Tibetan Buddhist’s ‘Loving Kindness Compassion’ meditation found that kindness and compassion did, in fact, reduce inflammation in the body, implicating the role of the vagus nerve.
- Kindness reduces the emotional distance between two people and so we feel more ‘bonded’. It’s something that is so strong in us that it’s actually a genetic thing. We are wired for kindness. Our evolutionary ancestors had to learn to cooperate with one another. The stronger the emotional bonds within groups, the greater were the chances of survival and so ‘kindness genes’ were etched into the human genome.
- When we’re kind we inspire others to be kind and studies show that it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends – to 3-degrees of separation. Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so acts of kindness ripple outwards touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.
We see this as being a win-win-win: good for the recipient, good for the giver, and good for the entire community!
During Random Acts of Kindness month, we encourage people to perpetuate anonymous, unexpected acts of kindness for strangers and loved ones, asking only that recipients “pay it forward” if they choose. We provide cards that people can give with their acts of kindness, and encourage people to use social media to document acts of kindness with the tag #kindnessinbeverly.
In past years, we have witnessed beautiful acts of kindness:
- Kind bars for an entire yoga class
- Repeated shoveling of snow for elderly neighbors
- Paying someone’s grocery bill
- Paying for someone’s Metra ticket
- Giving away tickets to an event
- Paying for the coffee order for the following car in the drive-thru
- Giving handmade scarves and hats to the homeless
- Surprising the mail-carrier with a Starbucks giftcard on a sub-zero day
- A child making pancakes for his family
- Surprising crossing guards with Dunkin Donuts gift cards and notes of thanks
In February, look for our signs and Random Acts of Kindness card at local businesses. Or, any time of year, call us at 773-310-3488 and request a sign for your workplace, church, school and/or cards to get you started spreading your acts of kindness and joy! Thank you for joining the challenge and joining the fun!