December 13, 2018. By Ashley Agnew:
Wrapping up our Year of Giving, our team met at the end of November and shared how rewarding it was to give back to organizations which help those in need. So much so, in fact, that some team members actually feel guilty about how great they felt after volunteering. Through our discussions it became apparent that kindness is not only therapeutic but also healing. The perfect way to conclude our Year of Giving was by hosting Tara Cousineau PhD at our December breakfast event to discuss her book The Kindness Cure.
Tara’s research covers “how the science of compassion can heal your heart and your world”. Although it may seem a common-sense idea that kindness matters, it is not one that is always fully understood or adopted. This is often not due to lack of effort, but instead the surplus of stress and distraction faced by most individuals. In her book, she shares that it is difficult to be both empathetic and over-stressed at the same time, and that existing in this state can create Self-Protective Empathy Lethargy, or SPEL. Through awakening your inner kindness, or as Dr. Cousineau calls it your kindfulness, you can learn to break the SPEL to lead a more empowered life. One tool that she elaborated on was The Power of a Pause. She illustrated this with a reading from her book, telling the story of when her yoga in instructor, Hania, found herself infuriated after a gentleman abruptly opened his car door directly into her brand-new vehicle:
A wave of panic swept through me. My first instinct was to yell at the man, possible curse him out, and create a scene. But instead, for some reason, I paused and just watched the man slowly get out of his car.” She continued: “I saw that he only had one arm. Then I scanned his car. I saw a veteran sticker. In that split second, I thought about all he may have endured during his military service. My heart stopped for a moment and I felt overcome with emotion, going from anger to compassion. I gathered myself and held the bank door open for him. He thanked me and went inside. When I got into my car and started to drive away, it occurred to me that I felt really good, and I even forgot to check the door for a scratch. It just didn’t matter anymore.”
We had the pleasure of meeting Hania as a guest at the event and she confirmed how impactful that very moment was for her. She guided the group in a meditation, and everyone agreed that after that four-minute pause we were in an open and kind state of mind. Both she and Tara teach that purposeful pauses throughout the day can teach an individual to embrace the Power of the Pause during stressful situations. There was also time set aside during the event for the audience to partner up and share a time when they gave or received compassion. Following this activity, Tara informed us that even just discussing kind acts can improve attitude, outlook, and corporate culture.
In conclusion, Tara validated our team’s intuition that volunteering has real health benefits. Furthermore, she added that in her research those who volunteered regularly reported a reduction in the need of anti-depressant medication and an increase in their positive outlook. The benefits of kindness are vast. It was a pleasure hosting Dr. Cousineau to share ways to incorporate them into our everyday lives.