Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Tara Cousineau reacted to the cruelty of mean girls by becoming a kindness warrior and set out to make the world a kinder place. Dr. Cousineau maintains that kindness is a natural human action. We all start out being kind and compassionate to other people, then life happens. We may experience war, trauma, poverty, or other hardships and survival takes over. She maintains that because of our basic need to survive, the initial purity of thought and kindness for others is diminished, or even buried beneath our more urgent needs. However, she urges everyone to work at kindness. Whatever we feel and express is contagious. It’s up to each of us to decide what we want to share: meanness, which is an expression of hate, or kindness–an expression of love. Dr. Cousineau advises that we intentionally choose kindness for ourselves and others.
Kindness Is the Energy of Healing
When Dr. Cousineau talks to people about kindness, it is often dismissed as a soft, unimportant skill. But as a kindness warrior, she has the research to prove that it’s not only beneficial for us to express kindness, it’s a healthy choice. She calls it “the energy of healing.” When confronted with a daily bombardment of negativity in the world, she uses kindness and compassion as a heart, mind, body remedy to stay happy and healthy. Her new book, The Kindness Cure: How the Science of Compassion Can Heal Your Heart and Your World, shares the science and the technique for creating compassion for yourself and for others.
Dr. Nancy shares her experience watching caregivers burn out and become unable to help the people they serve with compassion. Dr. Cousineau says that it’s actually “empathy-fatigue” that makes them unable to continue to relate to the pain and suffering of those they care for. Empathy is the emotion where we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Caregivers’ stress response is to shut down when they can no longer tolerate another person’s pain. She says that’s especially true for caregivers of elderly parents with Alzheimer’s. That’s when it’s important to create boundaries and care for and be kind to yourself. Kindness and compassion is an uplifting experience, a tender loving emotion, not a negative one. Saying no, setting boundaries and caring for oneself in these instances, is an expression of kindness for yourself.
Contagious Kindness—3 Degrees of Separation
Dr. Cousineau says that there is a measurable mathematical result from sharing. When we share kindness with a friend, that friend shares it with another friend, who shares it with another friend. When it reaches the third friend of a friend, it mathematically has the capacity to come back to you. She also notes that in the worst of times, her mother told her to look for the helper. It harkens back to “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” but is a life lesson. Everyone who has done anything positive in the world has one person who has helped in some way—shared kindness through appreciation of that person’s talent or simply in their value as a human being. It is beyond being nice and polite, it is being truly compassionate for other people, recognizing kinship and unity with them.
Listen to this interview for more stories about how kindness can generate positive emotions and results in the world. Check out Dr. Cousineau’s website and take the quiz to find out your kindness quotient. Then get the cure with her new book and set your intention to promote kindness. It will literally lighten your day.
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