Today is World Kindness Day, a day sprung out of the need to highlight and encourage good deeds in our community. On the blog today, Andrina, Body & Soul’s Head of advocacy and engagement, explains why kindness is such an integral part of what we do at Body & Soul.
Kindness is simple, it only requires that it does not operate in solitude. Therefore kindness is something benevolent and positive done between two or more beings, be they human or otherwise. So why do we find it so difficult to conceptualise, and act upon? It is because kindness lies in the connection between people and sometimes that connection frightens us.
The first time Sarah stepped in through the doors at Body & Soul wasn’t her first time on the premises, she has stood outside the door many times before. For many of our members that first step in to our building demands great courage, a courage to address the reasons for walking through the door, courage to face potential judgement, rejection, and inability to help. The thoughts are not always rational, nor are their responses. For some this emotional overload triggers the body’s immediate flight-fight response, our biological reaction to stress. Threats such as disclosure, isolation, discrimination are real threats for some of our members. For others, threats consist of notions of not being accepted, not being loved. The risk of being vulnerable, the fear of being exposed to someone or something other than the self, the “other”. Therefore, if I don’t need to show you who I am, there is no risk for you to hurt me and therefore I’d rather not seek a connection with you.
There are other ways in which ‘connection’ can be broken. Childhood trauma (such as abuse, neglect and dysfunctional households) as eloquently put by Katherine Cox, Body & Soul’s head of Therapeutic services, “is about the abuse of, lack of or loss of connection”. People with a high score on the ACE scale are in significant higher risk of heart disease, STDs, depression and suicide attempts, as well as premature death. Childhood trauma is the heightened and prolonged experience of the flight-or-fight response and if experienced in the formative years can alter the way the brain operates.
However, the life threatening impacts of childhood trauma can be mitigated. How is this possible? Recent research in neuroplasticity has shown that the brain can create new neurological pathways , we can reshape the way we respond to triggers in our everyday life and how we move passed them.
Our capacity to lessen the impacts of childhood adversity depends on our ability to recover from difficulties. We cannot recover in isolation. We need a connection to others to be able to overcome our adversities. A two year long study by Carnegie UK Trust and Joseph Rowntree Foundation illustrate just how vital connectivity is not only for the wellbeing of the individual but for our societal wellbeing as well. The report highlights the immediate need to strengthen our social capital through kindness and illustrate just how we can do so. If connection is at the heart of human wellbeing, an act of kindness is therefore the bridge we use to strengthen it. It’s not only a random act such as a hug or buying a stranger a cup of coffee, it’s to ask why that hug or cup of coffee is needed.
20 years ago, Anita and Gordon Roddick took the time to build a connection with us, they supported our vision, our passion to ultimately bring kindness to the world and build resilience in all members, regardless of age, by fostering restorative, healing connection within a supportive and loving community.
Sarah did walk in through our doors.
“First thing somebody smiled at me and asked me how I was doing. They offered me a cup of tea and sat down with me, talking to me, until my appointment. I could see they were all busy but they took time for me. Somebody took time for me.”