Some time ago, a friend of mine would send me a quick one-line message in the morning. Not every day, but occasionally, just to let me know I was thought of. Which always was a great start of my day! Recently I decided to try the same for someone else. In the morning I sent one of my friends a quick note. ‘Good morning! I think you are awesome! Hope you have a great day!’
Her response was one of joy and gratitude! My friend really appreciated the uplifting message. I think it made a good start of her day, and what’s more, it was a great start of mine, as well!
It’s interesting to realize that these little moments of kindness may have a much bigger effect than we might expect. The few minutes it takes to reach out to someone makes them feel recognized and know they matter. Here is why that is so important in this day and age.
In an article by former Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, who served under President Obama, he writes that loneliness is an epidemic. Even though we may be technologically connected through Facebook, Instagram and other social networks, the number of people reporting to feel isolated has doubled since the 1980’s.
And I know from personal experience how painful loneliness can be. Many years ago, when I just moved to the United States from Holland, I knew hardly anybody in my new town. Getting started in a new city can be a challenge, let alone beginning anew in a whole different country!
Where I came from I had a huge social circle. ‘Meeting with someone’ meant just walking over to their house and knocking on their door. Yet here, in this new country, if you wanted to meet with someone, you had to schedule it two or three weeks in advance… That was a big adjustment. Fast forward many years, I now have a strong social circle, but it really took time to build.
During that time I experienced a lot of anxiety, which I learned is also caused by loneliness. According to research, loneliness might even be a bigger health risk than smoking or obesity and can increase risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia and depression. Loneliness influences our work as well, because the associated increased cortisol levels reduce our ability to think clearly and make decisions. And this all happens when loneliness turns inward.
But what, if it is expressed outwardly? The truth is that there are some awful things that have happened in the world, done by individuals who don’t feel seen or acknowledged. Who feel that their actions are the only painful way out of an already deeply painful existence.
My hope and belief is that if we are more kind, more aware of others and more present to what’s going on for them, maybe some of these things could be avoided…
So here is my question to you. How can you connect with someone in such a way that it lights them up? It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. It can be a text or an email. You can send a card or pick up the phone. Smile to someone in the checkout line… The possibilities are endless. And then check in with yourself afterwards, how it affected your life?
What will you do, today?
Below is a fun idea… And please let me know how you spread kindness, I’d love to hear from you!