Kindness is more contagious than COVID

I can’t thank you enough for all the uplifting quotes I received in response to my last email. I was overwhelmed by your enthusiasm, insight and warm words of support. I now have enough quotes for another 10 books!

Reading all your messages and inspirational quotes also delivered an unanticipated gift. I noticed that after several hours of curating, I emerged with greater energy, creativity and compassion than when I’d started. I felt compelled to write a thank you card to several colleagues and I made an extra portion  of mushroom stroganoff to take to an elderly neighbour.

I believe that my actions were due to a phenomenon that is receiving increasing attention in scientific research: the contagious effect of kindness. When we see, hear or read about other people being kind or doing good deeds, we unconsciously become kinder and more generous ourselves. This is because the experience of kindness stimulates the release of prosocial, bonding and motivational chemicals such as oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. All the quotes you provided illustrated our greatest human potential for wisdom, empathy and kindness, and it rubbed off on my own behaviour. Upon reflection it seems obvious but our culture doesn’t take advantage of this. All too frequently, the daily news is about doom, gloom and crime. This triggers the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, and creates the sense that we live in an unsafe world. This dampens our inclination to be kind. On the other hand, when we hear a story about people bravely helping each other during floods and fires, we are more likely to donate and to help others ourselves.

Kindness has also been found to strengthen our immune system. When Harvard University students were shown a film about Mother Teresa’s good deeds in India, they increased their production of an antibody called secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA). This protein is found in the mucous membranes of our mouth, nose, lungs and gut and helps to protect us from infections. In another study, participants were asked to generate feelings of kindness and compassion for just five minutes. They also experienced elevated levels of sIgA. This has became known as ‘The Mother Teresa Effect’.

So how can we bring more kindness into our lives? Keep reading inspirational maxims and stories and don’t wait for a reason to be kind. Simply be kind. To this end, I’ll share two moving quotes that I received.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. Philo of Alexandria (born 25 BCE)

If someone is too tired to give you a smile, leave one of your own, because no one needs a smile as much as those who have none to give. Samson Raphael Hirsch, German Rabbi (1808 – 1888)

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