The Healing Power of Kindness
Dr. Sydney Fontanares: Kindness is an act, or it’s a practice. It’s something you cultivate. So being able to be intentional about when we practice kindness and asking ourselves those questions and reflect on it. The question that I like to use is you know “How can I bring kindness into my day – whether to me or another person in any small way?”, and just starting off my day with that and ending my day with that.
Lois Paula: Whether you’re hoping to heal the world or heal yourself. This podcast is here for you to highlight how kindness moves.
Nan: Yes, how it moves you to action – you yourself. Or how it just makes you feel something so good, it’s contagious. You might have been touched by a simple act of kindness, you might want tips on how you can act now in your community or you just love the feeling of doing good.
Lois Paula: Welcome to Kindness Moves, a new podcast brought to you by the INC Giving Project. We’re your hosts LP and Nan.
Lois Paula: So today on Kindness Moves, we talk more in depth on how kindness heals. It’s a topic that actually resonates with many of you, especially as we’ve all gained this new perspective this past year. And some of us are even more focused on our emotional and mental health.
Nan: That’s so true, LP. We’ve all had to adjust. I’m sure we’ve all had to learn to reshift our focus and I’m sure everyone has had to pick up some broken pieces to try to make the best of our different situations.
Lois Paula: So in terms of kindness. How can it help really? You know, are good deeds truly capable of being healthy for the heart, the mind for the soul? You know, for example Nan, if you think back to, for instance, you know, a rough time in your life, what’s one thing that might have helped you?
Nan: You know, it’s no secret, 2020 was such a rough year for almost everyone right, to varying degrees, and my family and I, we were no strangers to that. Unfortunately, I lost my mom in 2020. And that was definitely the darkest moment in my life. What was interesting though was even though it was the darkest moment, you know, kindness, really was one of those beacons of light and kindness from family members from brothers and sisters in the faith, from friends – that that kindness really helped us to maintain that that positive outlook and mood, you know, so kindness really does move and help others.
Lois Paula: Absolutely and firstly I just want to thank you for sharing that Nan. Our hearts are truly with you and everyone who have grieved especially this last year alone the loss of someone or even something you know I’m sure all of us have lost something – plans or a future, you know, that we were hoping to have. But you’re right, having a community, it strengthens us, it reminds us that there’s still so much more to gain in life from all the blessings that we have and for me personally, it’s, it’s my kids, actually, you know, they remind me to take more moments to laugh and be present and to be more joyful so their kindness their natural being of you know them being kids it, it truly does help me. Yeah, so we talked about today, how can we use kindness to help, ourselves first, so that ultimately we can be of better help to other people. Actually, before we even get to that, what is this feeling anyways? That feeling of being affected, just by one simple act of kindness. Why is it so powerful?
Nan: Right. That’s the big question right and this episode is why it’s a perfect time to bring on a clinical psychologist to help us explain what that feeling is. So let’s please welcome, Dr. Sydney Fontanares.
Dr. Sydney Fontanares: Hello. Hi. Hi Nan. Hi LP. How are you guys?
Lois Paula: Thanks for joining us.
Dr. Sydney Fontanares: I’m so excited to be here.
Nan: How are you?
Dr. Sydney Fontanares: I’m great, well as good as you can be, right?
Nan: Yeah, you know, and we’re really excited honestly, because you know the fact that this is your field and this is something that that really fits right into, you know, this, this whole discussion fits into into your field of work and we’re really excited to hear from you and. You know, according to studies like we’ve seen that there are certain studies that are out there and they’ve described what’s been called as, quote unquote happy chemicals in our brain. Right? And when we’re a recipient of kindness or if we witness an act of kindness or something where someone does something nice for somebody, there is an actual physical reaction that happens in our bodies when we witness those things right Dr. Sydney?
Dr. Sydney Fontanares: Yeah, so those happy chemicals we call those neurotransmitters. And these are chemicals that occur in our brain that sends messages through neurons which are the building block of the brain and they send messages to one another, and it, it makes certain parts of our brains function, elicits pleasurable feelings, it motivates behavior. So, a couple of these specific happy chemicals, that is what I’ve seen in research related to, when someone is doing an act of kindness includes dopamine, which is our reward hormone. So when we do something kind for someone. We get rewarded for it. Our brain, really likes it and it will produce dopamine, and it would elicit a pleasurable feeling.
Other happy chemicals or neurotransmitters is, it includes serotonin, which is our mood stabilizer. So for patients that we see who have clinical levels of depression, our psychiatrists and our doctors, they typically prescribe, what we call an SSRI, which targets the serotonin in our brain. So, we can see how it very much relates to feeling happy or stabilizing our mood.
We see an increase of that when people are doing acts of kindness. And there’s this thing actually, if either of you have heard of like a runner’s high, it gives us like a, like a really happy feeling, there is this thing called like a helpers high. So, when we are doing an act of kindness, or even witnessing an act of kindness, we can get that increase of happy feeling sort of that glow that we get. And then also, there’s something I did read recently to is the neurotransmitter oxytocin. Are either one of you familiar with that one?
Nan: We have heard of oxytocin Yeah.
Lois Paula: Is that the love hormone right?
Dr. Sydney Fontanares: It is the love hormone or the cuddle hormone.
Lois Paula: Oh cuddle hormone.
Nan: Cuddle hormone.
Dr. Sydney Fontanares: Yeah, super cute. It occurs when, where we see it in childbirth, when we’re petting a dog or hugging a loved one or a family member. It’s a way for us to build trust and comfort with one another. It builds the strong bonds with one another. And this is so essential in our society and that’s why it’s so important to help one another and create those connections.
Lois Paula: Yeah, and it’s not just a feeling, there is an actual physical reaction that’s happening in our bodies, you know, there’s no hiding that it’s not just, oh I feel good and it, you know, seeing it. It makes me feel, you know, warm and fuzzy inside. It’s an actual chemical process that’s happening. So you mentioned, you know kindness being something that we can do. What are some simple things that we can do on a day to day basis, maybe, to help elicit that response in our, in our bodies, in our minds?
Dr. Sydney Fontanares: Sure. So I would say the first thing would be, you know, not only just acts towards other people, but kindness towards yourself. There is the Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Tara Cousineau, she has done a lot of research on kindness and mental health, and she noted that the first person that’s important to receive kindness, is yourself. She talks about how sometimes we get so distracted by our own, I guess unkindness to ourself, we can’t be kind to other people. That would be a good start.
Another thing too – I read just some research about just tracking our kindness, having like a kindness journal. I know like the big thing is like a gratitude journal. But having a kindness journal and being able to note, you know what kind of kindness, what acts of kindness you’re doing. The research was on happiness, subjective happiness and having people just write down acts of kindness that they’ve done throughout the week for one week. And what they notice was that people became more happy when they were just doing this intervention, just writing things down, of what kind of acts of kindness they were doing, and even planning for kindness, they’ve written down in they notice that people were, not only happy, but more grateful.
Lois Paula: It’s a great way of putting it, and it’s like you said, it’s a constant conscious effort. Right? And we appreciate you bringing that up because I don’t think we truly realize how impactful doing something so small can really be you know for those around us yes but like you mentioned, Dr. Sydney, but even for ourselves. And these days, you know we need as much contagious positivity as we can really get.
Nan: Right, I totally agree and Dr. Sydney, thank you again you know you speak of the physical impact the chemical influence doing good has on our emotional well being. And we truly thank you for starting this conversation with us. But now, before we jump to our next guest, again we want to say thank you we will come back to Dr. Sydney further down in the podcast but right now we’re going to jump to another guest to speak to us about spiritual well being and how kindness can heal the soul, as well.
Lois Paula: Yes, so we like to say hello and a warm welcome to a Minister of the Gospel, Brother Lowell Nucum. Hello.
Nan: Hi Brother Lowell.
Bro. Lowell Nucum: Hello LP. Hello Nan. Thanks for having me.
Lois Paula: Yes, thank you for joining us. We’re so grateful. Over the years, Brother Lowell, you have become someone who not only teaches, you know, why kindness is representative of Christian behavior, but you practice this as well. We’re so grateful because you have participated in many of the INC Giving, you know, campaigns and Make Kindness Contagious so to say. But what moves you, you know, to really take every opportunity, Brother Lowell, to turn it into a simple act of kindness?
Bro. Lowell Nucum: We’re really always grateful, in the Church, that we have opportunities that are presented to us to be able to do something kind for other people. We recently had our Make Kindness Contagious campaign and it’s a blessing because it gives us opportunities or reminds us of the different ways that we can be kind to other people. When we talk about what moves us to be kind, it really is a good feeling isn’t it?
I remember when I was younger, I was always with my dad. Whenever there would be someone who just arrived in United States from the Philippines, my dad knew who they were for some reason, I guess it was because he was a travel agent also, and also through people at Church. And what my dad would always offer people who just came from the Philippines is, he would offer to drive them to go get their driver’s license or ID at the DMV or he would offer to bring them to the Social Security office so they can apply for their social security card and social security number. He would just do these things out of kindness, I suppose, you know, when I was young. And I just remember just observing my dad and after a while, you see that he was really happy to do it even though, you know, when we were young, we didn’t have very much, and my dad was very busy as well. But he set aside time to do that. And so, I think, I’m very blessed that that’s something I think I got from my dad is that whenever you have a chance to do something kind for someone, to do it, you know.
As a father now, that’s something that I really want to make sure that I show my son. Not only because I’m a Minister and it’s something that I teach, but it’s just something that we make as a way of life, just to see how people are doing, just to offer help whenever we can. It’s not really that difficult to find opportunities to help others right or to be kind to others? Sometimes there’s an anxiety I think especially now, because people communicate more often than not, through social media, through the internet or through phones. It’s not face to face, and all the more during this pandemic, I think people have had less face to face, or, you know, in-person contact. And I think sometimes it can, that makes one a little bit anxious to approach people in person, and to talk to people or even to reach out to new people in general, because you have so much control over who you interact with now and even if it’s uncomfortable.
But I think when you have that desire to do things that are kind to do kinda kind things for others, then, you know, it gives you a lot of motivation to overcome that anxiety because of of the effect that you can have on others and I think, the more that you do it, the more good it feels you know what I mean? It’s an opportunity that presents itself through God’s grace. And I think and then when you take when you make the most of that opportunity by, really, offering kindness, whatever kindness you can, then God’s grace will also reach you and your family as well right?
Nan: Right, right. That’s so true Brother Lowell, like, everything that you touched on it’s so spot on. I think you’re in a really special position because inherently, a part of you being a Minister of the Gospel, you help others on a daily basis, which is already great because you have those opportunities. But on a personal level, what has been the most memorable moment that you can recall where you really were guided to help another person who might have not necessarily came to you, but you were called to action anyway?
Bro. Lowell Nucum: We had our Make Kindness Contagious Campaign and, you know, my wife and I are talking, and we’re trying to figure out what are we going to do. And my wife, always sees our elderly neighbor who often is outside mowing his lawn or taking care of his yard. And so, she said, well, you know, we never really have talked to him or said hi to him. And so, she said well, let’s prepare a care package and bring it to them. And so that’s what we did. We prepared some fruits and some snacks, also some hygiene items as well. And we brought them over to our neighbor, and that was a good thing. The good thing about going there as well was, you know, we didn’t realize that his wife had already passed away, but we had seen his wife before around. And so, you know, just that the act of going there and doing something kind for him also gave us an opportunity to be able to help, you know, have a part in helping him through his grieving, consoling him and having, you know, for him having someone to talk to. After that he was visiting us here at the chapel compound once in a while talking to him. We were able to give him God’s Message magazines whenever he comes by. We’re encouraging him to listen to the teachings inside the Church, we’re continuing to share our faith with him and so, yeah, God really gave us that opportunity through the Make Kindness Contagious Campaign. So that, that’s very very memorable.
Nan: Wow, that’s really really awesome.
Lois Paula: Yeah, that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t taken the opportunity and just the persistence to not think about, like you mentioned earlier, the anxiety or you know the the doubt that can come in a person’s mind and you just you just acted, and that opened the door to, possibly, you know, allowing him, like you mentioned to, to learn more about the Church Of Christ and, as you mentioned also, use it as a learning experience for your family and for your son. Just like you had learned from your dad you know in years past, so thank you sharing that. It’s beautiful.
Bro. Lowell Nucum: We’re also grateful for that chance too. You know it’s during the pandemic right and, a lot of people I think have anxiety to also interact with other people And where we live here in Wrightstown, New Jersey, it’s already a rural area, farming county and sometimes, a lot of people move here or stay here because they don’t really want to interact with too many people. But because of the Make Kindness Contagious Campaign, we said hey this is our neighbor, this is something should do and it opened a lot of doors for other opportunities for acts of kindness. And so we were very grateful for that.
Lois Paula: So we discussed today actually you know how kindness can help us individually, we mentioned mentally, emotionally, spiritually because we are trying to understand what it can do for us. Kindness really does have the ability to heal and we have all felt that. Thank you Brother Lowell for sharing those moments where you were inspired and hopefully all of us are inspired to take action as well.
Lois Paula: Dr. Sydney – If we can touch base again on how impactful one simple act of kindness can be for a person industry-wise. Can you put into perspective, the need, you know that people face for this type of chemical reaction induced by kindness?
Dr. Sydney Fontanares: Yeah, there has just been just a lot of recent research out there about just loneliness. An act of kindness is a connection with other people. And being in this pandemic, you can imagine what the difficulty with loneliness has impacted our society. I was just reading an article. I think it was just last year, talking about, even before the pandemic, many countries were already having difficulty with social isolation and loneliness. They were calling it already, a behavioral epidemic. And as the pandemic has happened, it’s only made things worse as you can imagine. And there was another article, I believe it was the first month that COVID-19 had hit the United States, loneliness increased 10% of within, like, the adult population. So 18 years and older, and emotional distress tripled. I think it was also the height of many people going into therapy or seeking mental health support. I myself was fairly busy at that time too and just many reports of being isolated and lonely and even, you know, having, like Zoom or FaceTime wasn’t really helpful. We, we kind of call it like the loneliness paradox, like even if you’re on social media, and you have like 1000 friends, it actually makes you feel even more lonely.
So people are really craving for social connection, a real true authentic connection that acts of kindness can give. Specific populations that are affected by loneliness – our elderly population, those who are in low-income households, people of color. More research has, has been looking at, parents, especially mothers who are feeling extra isolated. Because, you know, everything is virtual now. There isn’t a lot of child care support, and also our young adults. There, even again before the pandemic, I think the statistic was like four, four in ten adults, young adults. They are experiencing some sort of social isolation.
So that’s why, again, going back to why an act of kindness is so important is that everyone’s craving for that connection for that moment of, even with a stranger they said like not not only you know people near us but strangers can benefit from an act of kindness.
Nan: Yeah it’s very eye opening to hear, like, those stats and all those facts that are well, documented. And I guess it really highlights how it really is important for us to understand not only our needs, but the needs of those around us and understanding what kindness can really do for us. So thank you again Dr. Sydney for sharing all those stats with us. Brother Lowell, if someone listening might be afraid, you know maybe they’re shy. Maybe they think, you know, I’m just one person that can’t change the world, why even bother? What would be your advice to them?
Bro. Lowell Nucum: Well, one of the verses that we often hear when we’re talking about our kindness and our giving inside the Church Of Christ is what’s written in Proverbs 3:27. “Whenever you possibly can do good to those who need it.”. And so in that verse, there’s the first part, whenever you possibly can. There really are many opportunities to be able to help other people. We do have our various campaigns and projects in the Church through INC Giving and Aid to Humanity and whenever those opportunities arise, we should participate.
But at the same time, there are many opportunities that present itself daily, and to open up ourselves to those opportunities, you know, one should not think well, I might not be able to make an impact. Who can I help? What can I help? I’m the one who needs help. Right? You know, overcome that anxiety or hesitation, we can remember the acts of kindness that others have done for us, you know, when someone just simply asked us how we were doing. When someone just smiled, when someone gave us a pat on the back, when someone complimented us. Those are things that don’t require a lot of effort, but they really were good things for us or they really helped us, they were acts of kindness for us.
And so, you know, even if materially we may not have too much or so much, even if we think to ourselves that we can’t have a great impact, you know, when it actually comes down to it, we can have a very great and positive impact on other people’s lives. So don’t be afraid, small things count, matter and can do great things. So, just say hi to people. Ask people how they’re doing. Offer, offer an ear to, you know, to listen to what people are going through. Offer what we have, even, you know, the little that we can offer can be really a lot to, to others. And you know sometimes when we offer our help, you know sometimes people refuse. And that’s just part of putting ourselves out there. That’s an act of kindness itself isn’t it? Even if we weren’t actually able to give what we wanted to give. We have many things to offer right? There are online tools, printed tools and media that we can use as well, that we can share with friends who are in need.
Nan: I think it’s, it’s so interesting because you know the acts of kindness can also vary, you know like the spectrum of acts of kindness is not just like one thing that you can do. You know we could help people in so many ways.
Dr. Sydney Fontanares: Yeah, yeah, there is research, psychologists or researchers on social networks. They were doing a study on acts of kindness, and what they can see is that it’s three degrees of influence. So it’s not just the person that you are being kind towards, so if it’s your friend you’re being kind towards, it’s gonna be your friend’s friend, and then your friend’s friend’s friend. So your small act of kindness can influence someone that you don’t totally know. And again can be that, that ripple effect.
Nan: Wow. Very cool.
Lois Paula: And it goes even bigger, yeah it’s even bigger than, than what we think initially, what we hope for it, what the goal is. It has such a bigger impact than we could ever imagine. Thank you so much.
Lois Paula: And we did ask you, our listeners as well. Our Kindness Ambassadors to chime in, about how kindness moves you. So for this episode specifically, here’s what Maricel Soliven from Temple Terrace, Florida had to say about doing acts of kindness and how it has inspired her. Take a listen.
Maricel Soliven: Hi, my name is sister Maricel Soliven, and ever since I’ve been a part of the (INC Giving) Project since 2011, I didn’t know that there were small things that I could do to make so many people happier– just by, whether it be leaving a note, whether it be just saying thank you, or even greeting people that you pass by on the street. The INC Giving Show has made me more aware of how I can do small, simple things that make the world a little brighter.
Nan: So thanks Maricel for showing how kindness moves you. Today we’ve had clinical psychologist Dr. Sydney Fontanares and Minister of the Gospel Brother Lowell Nucum on the show today. They’re both sharing with us on a psychological and also a spiritual level, how kindness heals. Now, before we close the podcast. We would like to ask the both of you for maybe a closing point that you’d like to share with our listeners. Maybe we could start with Dr. Sydney. Maybe this is their first time hearing about this topic or, or, realizing just how impactful kindness is.
Dr. Sydney Fontanares: Yeah. I was just reading this thing about Benjamin Franklin. From what I understand, he would always ask himself, “What kind of good can I do today?”. And then, even at the end of the day, “What kind of good did I do today?”, or something along that line. Kind of telling us that kindness just doesn’t happen upon us. Kindness is an act. It’s a practice. It’s something you cultivate. So being able to be intentional about when we practice kindness and asking ourselves those questions and reflect on it. The question that I like to use is you know “How can I bring kindness into my day – whether to me or another person in any small way?”, and just starting off my day with that and ending my day with that.
Nan: Very cool, very cool thank you so much Dr. Sydney that, that’s such a solid point, it’s intentional and people can tell when you’re intentional and sincere, so thank you. Brother Lowell, if you had any parting words or something that you’d like to share with us and our listeners, please feel free.
Bro. Lowell Nucum: Oh yeah, I think, you know, however big or small our contribution can be, or our act of kindness can be – that’s what we possibly can do, do it right? Do it, because people really need it. You know, we know we know what we need. And that can give us an insight of what other people need as well and just, you know, get out there and do those acts of kindness whenever the chance presents itself.
Lois Paula: Ok, thank you so much, Dr. Sydney and Brother Lowell for your inspirational advice, your tips and your knowledge that you have given unto us and our listeners. Thank you for sharing.
Nan: Thank you so much. I’ve learned so much today. I, you can’t tell, but I’m smiling. I’m smiling.
Bro. Lowell Nucum: It’s a blessing for us too, to be a part of this program and to be able to share as well so thank you very much for the opportunity.
Lois Paula: Thank you so much for joining us, to the both of you. We appreciate you. Thank you.
Nan: In our next episodes, please stay tuned for discussions on raising kind kids, creating a growth mindset, and so much more.
Lois Paula: Thank you so much for tuning in. We hope you are as inspired as we are to truly be affected by kindness and, in turn, help others feel it as well. I’m Lois Paula.
Nan: And I’m Nan. For more tips and ideas on how you can Make Kindness Contagious, please visit incgiving.org. And please add us to your playlist of favorites, or download more episodes on Google podcast, I Heart Radio, and the Apple Podcast app.
Lois Paula: Remember, act now. Make your move and do good because kindness matters. It’s meaningful. It motivates. Kindness moves.