Improve the world and your health
Daniela Ginta, MSc
It was early March, when the pandemic news was breaking, that AnnMarie Aase also heard of a “caremongering” movement happening across Canada, with volunteers helping seniors and people at risk. “I looked for something similar in Kamloops [where] and there was nothing,” Aase says. She created the Facebook page, which now has 4,600 members. “Through team effort, we now have a website to address individual needs and offerings, a telephone hotline, information on local resources, and meal deliveries,” says Aase. It’s a group powered by people with one foundational commonality—kindness.
When parents model kindness, children are inclined to follow. In a recent study of children under six, researchers observed that being generous made them feel calmer, which helps reinforce kind behaviour. It’s never too late to start on the journey though, according to Jocelyn Gordon, certified life coach in Kamloops. “Some people may be more effortlessly orientated around compassion, empathy, and giving to others, but we can all develop this at any age.” Just one week of kindness can leave you happier and more grateful. Being kind also helps people with social anxiety to have better relationships and to be more inclined to connect. “Connection is a key ingredient in happiness,” says Gordon. “When we feel connected to others, more empathic, more aware of others’ experiences, we feel more enriched.”
Considering that we’re still in the grips of a pandemic, volunteering as we know it has changed; but that doesn’t stand in the way of people caring. “When we launched our website,” says Aase, “we had immuno-compromised people who wished to help but who thought they couldn’t, given their health condition. But they could, and they did, by telling everyone how to stay at home, since everyone else was new at it.”
Being there for others comes with its own rewards: kindness toward others boosts your well-being and happiness levels. Studies show that volunteers experience a boost in their mental health; they feel happier and more satisfied with their lives. And volunteering later in life has been shown to boost cognitive function and slow cognitive decline. Our brains release oxytocin (known as the “love hormone”) when we’re happy, and we become happy when we show kindness toward others. As a bonus, oxytocin further boosts kindness and generosity. Oxytocin can help reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease. It inhibits inflammation, promotes wound healing, and reduces the risk of immune disorders caused by stress. Your immune system benefits from frequent doses of the happiness hormone too. Oxytocin is not the only brain chemical released through kindness. Dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter, also floods our bodies, causing a feel-good state called “helper’s high.” Dopamine can also affect immune cells and regulate normal immunity. Simply put, kindness strengthens your own immune system! Don’t let physical barriers, mobility, or age stop you from helping people. There are many opportunities to manifest kindness as you go about your day, from sending a note to a friend or family member to offering your knowledge and time to a cause you care about.
We can express kindness in a multitude of different ways. The most important thing to remember, according to certified life coach Jocelyn Gordon, is to “be kind, while not expecting anything in return.” She adds, “Just make whatever gesture it is that feels good and right for you.” Here are just a few ideas—some small acts of kindness:
It started out as a local effort to offer kindness and aid to those who may be in need during the COVID pandemic. The caremongering movement, driven by social media, began in Toronto with a Facebook group and some caring people who wanted to help vulnerable people. The founders coined the term “caremongering” as an antidote to the “scaremongering” they saw all around them during the height of the pandemic. Social media fanned the caremongering flame and, given the inherent kindness Canadians are well known for, it caught on across the country. There are now caremongering groups in cities and towns from coast to coast to coast, all driven by small acts of caring and kindness from getting and delivering groceries and prescriptions to babysitting and phone chats with homebound seniors.