The Energizer

Resilient Insights for Work & Life

Employee Health Improves with Kindness

by Eileen McDargh, Chief Energy Officer - Monday, October 21, 2019
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The Los Angeles Times recently reported that a $20 million gift is funding a UCLA institute studying the benefits of doing good for others. While skeptics might consider this just another California “woo woo” experiment, an interdisciplinary research approach is discovering that kindness to others alters genes that can lead to heart disease and certain cancers.

Daniel Fessler, UCLA anthropology professor and the newly appointed director of Bedari Kindness Institute, stated that “cultivating kind thoughts and kind actions have a positive effect on the well-being of the individual.” UCLA researchers have also shown that kindness can ease depression and anxiety—a huge concern with the rise of mental health problems among students.

This is incredibly encouraging information for all of us who yearn to create environments at work, on campus, or at home that support and nurture health and wholeness. Kindness requires no money, no degree, no exhaustive training. Instead, it comes from an awareness and an intent to think, do, or say something kind without expecting anything in return.

Think of how often we ignore the people around us, fixated on our smart phone text, or moving so fast to our next appointment. Think of how often we grumble in a waiting line, try and beat a driver to the gas pump, or walk into a building without even acknowledging the people we see. Connected in a digital world, we are disconnected in our hearts.

Time to change that—for your health as well as the health of those whom you lead or live with.

Try the following for one week and see what a difference you feel.

1.  Look into the eyes of everyone you see and greet them with a smile and an appropriate greeting. That’s it. You don’t need to strike up a conversation unless you wish to.

2. If you see someone struggling with moving a package, getting into a car, or opening a jar, offer to help. In fact, just jump in and help

3. Make an anonymous payment for the next person in line at Starbucks, or the toll booth, or—the restaurant. The latter was gifted to us while on vacation in Greece. We asked a couple for help with the menu as the items were- well- GREEK. We asked them to please order for us. When we went to pay, the waiter informed us that the long-gone couple had bought our meal. We did the same thing when we returned to the U.S. for an unknown couple. I can’t tell you what joy that was.

4. Surprise your team by taking five minutes out of a meeting to let them know what you were grateful for in their support and efforts.

5. Surprise your neighbor and put their morning paper at the front door. And do it more than once.

6. Think who would find cheer in a call or a visit from you.  Perhaps your 88 year-old friend who is now in an assisted living facility, or send a “thinking of you card” to a colleague whom you haven’t seen in awhile

At the end of a week, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Is your heart a little lighter? Did you sleep any better? What would happen if you tried kindness for another week?

Caveat: If you are one of those hard-charging, take-no-prisoners type of manager—better warn the folks around you. They will distrust your motives. Imagine the vulnerability and therefore humanity—you will create if you admit that practicing kindness is a stretch for you. You might ask them for help if you falter.

The Dalai Lama said, “My religion is kindness”. Picture him in your mind: a peaceful, loving man who seems to carry on despite his age and the fact that he had to flee his country AND has a price on his head. Yet, he carries on with serenity and wisdom. He might very well be a living example, a healthy example, of the practice of kindness.


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Eileen McDargh Keynote Speaker Blog Author

About Eileen!

Since beginning her consulting and training practice in 1980, Eileen has become noted for her ability to speak the truth with clarity, wisdom, humor and compassion. Long-standing clients and repeat engagements attest to her commitment to make a difference in minds, hearts and spirits of organizations and individuals. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. Executive Excellence magazine selected her as one of the top 100 thought leaders in leadership and among the top ten consultant providers of leadership development.

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