You matter to me. I care about you.
Our core human value of kindness has the power to improve physical health and emotional well-being in children, youth and adults. As a public health nurse, I understand that the more we connect with our own hearts, the more we realize how interconnected we are as human beings; we become less focused on people’s differences and more focused on making a difference. I understand the processes of the human brain and its ability to release different hormones. Positive thoughts and actions stimulate the release of serotonin, endorphin and oxytocin, bringing feelings of calm, happiness and bonding. Kindness promotes a dynamic that welcomes positive change and adaptation to challenges.
In my experience working with children and youth, I see how media, technology and cyber communication can affect young people’s physical health, emotional well-being and academic achievement. Connecting with children and youth in kindness discussions can create trust, self-esteem and awareness of the universal concept of kindness.
My colleagues and I developed the Mindful Kindness program, including PowerPoint presentations; class discussions; interactive and dynamic activities; workshops on simple, everyday ways to be kind; and class projects in elementary and secondary schools. The program, which can be adapted as desired and used anywhere, can empower senior high school students to lead health-related presentations (e.g., about tobacco, drugs, alcohol) to younger students.
As children and youth navigate the myriad of society’s social and emotional challenges, they may become more self-conscious and forget that kindness starts with them. The increased concern about peer pressure may make it difficult to differentiate and acknowledge the importance of their own personal values. Finding and accepting the inner person and practising self-kindness promotes feelings of self-worth, increases self-esteem and brings optimism in reaching goals. As students turn inward and connect with their core human values, a sense of self allows them to reflect, reach out and interact with others with increased confidence.
During my Mindful Kindness presentations, students become connected with each other as they begin to understand that their personal response in challenging situations can become more positive and rewarding when kindness becomes their everyday way of communicating. Positive and warm communication promotes a meaningful connection with others, enabling children andyouth to share their challenges and difficulties and participate in finding positive solutions.
Kindness dialogue in relationships promotes feelings of acceptance, security, confidence and bonding. Positive, non-judgmental support and encouragement creates feelings of belonging and acceptance. This empowers students to reach out with kindness to others and build a positive school experience for all.
I believe that the power of kindness in improving physical health and emotional well-being can be learned and enhanced through personal and positive experiences with others. Evaluations from students in the program indicate that the kindness dialogue has a potential to increase confidence in self, reduce negative behavior and self-harm, and enable positive decision-making.
My colleagues and I challenge you to take part in World Kindness Day, an annual movement many countries, including Canada, recognize on Nov. 13.
Claudia Lefebvre, Lisa Hogan, Sandra Edelman and Tara Deeth developed the Mindful Kindness program with me. I especially thank Sandra Edelman, our manager, for endorsing and supporting this initiative.