What I learned from mud runs, science and Gandhi.
A number of years ago I participated in The Mudderella, an all women’s obstacle course mud run. It was an amazing, albeit freezing and difficult, experience. The final obstacle involved climbing up a rope net to a platform that was about 30 feet high and 30 feet across. From there you would slide down an extremely steep slide into a very muddy pool of water.
By this point in the “race” we were physically exhausted and due to some organizational glitch this last obstacle created a huge backlog of people. I guess they realized for safety reasons, too many people couldn’t be on the platform at once. The crowd continued to grow at the base of this obstacle as the sun got higher in the sky. The cold wet mud that we were covered in got steamy and hot as we waited our turn to climb up this monstrosity and finish the course. We waited, chatting and watching as 5 people at a time were allowed to climb the rope, wait at the top, and slide down the slide.
As we stood there, the crowd, about 200 people at this point, got quiet as it became obvious that one of the women was really struggling to get up the net. She was in her late 50s and not in great physical condition. Her 4 teammates were already at the top waiting for her for what seemed to be an eternity. “Take your time! You got this!” yelled someone from the crowd. It was like a dam broke at that moment. The cheering, the encouragement, the support. The whooping and hollering as she got one loop higher, and then one more. Even when she had to stop and rest the cheering didn’t stop.
I was swept away by the excitement when she got to the top, head held high, arms in the air. The crowd went wild and the moment changed me for good. Women helping women. Just because.
The joy of watching someone succeed, someone you are cheering for, someone who thought they couldn’t do it. The joy of knowing you helped, in a little tiny way
It was amazing.
This story is what came to mind when I was thinking of random acts of kindness. The kindness of a stranger cheering for another stranger, even when hot and sticky and covered with mud, changed me that day.
The amazing thing is, we can put moments of this same happiness into our everyday lives and without too much effort.
And without mud.
This is the easiest technique to feel better, to turn around a bad day, to combat stress, to improve your immune function.
Do something kind.
A deliberate act of kindness as it were, rather than a random one.
Here’s the thing, science (you know I love science) shows that giving, receiving, or even witnessing an act of kindness can
decrease inflammation (as measured by C reactive protein levels),
improve mood (by increasing serotonin levels),
improve cardiovascular health/decrease blood pressure (via increased oxytocin),
decrease pain (by increasing endorphins),
increase self esteem and optimism while decreasing social avoidance (again via oxytocin).
Make sure you didn’t miss that.
Kindness, whether you give it or get it, or even just see it,
CAN IMPROVE YOUR MOOD, BLOOD PRESSURE, IMMUNITY, RELATIONSHIPS, AND SELF-ESTEEM.
Basically, by doing something kind you are seriously helping yourself.
Not only that, the other person gets all the same benefits which makes them more likely to turn and do the same.
So the challenge for today? Deliberately look for places to be kind, to go out of your way to do something for someone else.
Need some ideas? See if you can add some of your own. Some of them you can do right from your own home, from your couch even! There are plenty of ideas that don’t cost anything but if you have a few dollars to spare, generosity is never wasted.
Compliment a complete stranger.
Going through a drive through? Pay for the car behind you.
Leave a positive review online for a local business.
Let someone go ahead of you in line.
Think about who you appreciate in your life and send them a text telling them so.
Pick up the kids shoes without yelling at them this time. Think about how you love them anyway.
Leave a generous tip.
Say something nice to the struggling mom whose toddler is melting down in front of you.
Listen to someone’s story without having to tell one of your own.
Donate to the very next fundraising event you see on Facebook.
Send a note the old fashion way, in the mail.
Say yes to donating the next time you are at the checkout and they ask.
Buy something delicious to put in the food bank drop box at the grocery store.
Call your mom :)
Having a really bad day? Give yourself a boost by googling “random acts of kindness videos.” Reap the benefit by watching someone else’s kindness until you can muster up the strength for your own. Be kind to yourself in this way.
As Mahatma Gandhi said
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
Take it one step further,