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Can you spare just five minutes today to be kind?

by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee   /  January 2, 2020

While kindness is, of course, something I hope we all put out into the world – and receive in return – on a daily basis, I’m all for making time to reinforce and celebrate its positive effects.

Being kind to others doesn’t just benefit them. Recent research confirms that kindness can be incredibly beneficial for our wellbeing, too. Psychologists know caring and showing empathy can reduce pain, anxiety, depression and give you more energy, as well as make you happier and extend your life. One study from the Yale School of Medicine in the US found that people who perform more acts of kindness in a day are more resilient to stress and have a more positive outlook on life.

So today, I’d like you to make time for a five-minute act of kindness. See it as something extra, a conscious effort to go above and beyond what you might normally do for others.

Spread some joy

In my new book, Feel Better In 5, there are a selection of five-minute exercises I suggest to help you become a healthier, happier version of yourself. They’re called ‘health snacks’ and the idea is they don’t require huge time commitments, so they feel achievable. But they put you on a journey to greater wellbeing and soon add up to real health results. One of my favourites is what I call, ‘The Kindness Practice’ – this falls into the Heart section of the book, which focuses on ways we can increase those all-important emotional connections in our lives.

There are infinite ways you can spend five-minutes on a simple act of kindness. Here are some suggestions to get you started, but I’m sure you can think of many more (I’d love you to share them with me on any of my social media channels):

  • You could send someone you know a meaningful text, telling them how much you value them or thanking them for something they’ve done, either recently or a long time ago.
  • It could be a little note you write to your kids for when they wake up in the morning.
  • You could pop by to say hello to an elderly neighbour on your way back home, bringing in their bins or picking up their post as you do.
  • Why not strike up a conversation with the barista who made your latte and thank them for making it just the way you like it?
  • If there’s a local business you use and value, could you write them a short testimonial to share online?
  • You could make a packed lunch for your partner or tuck a treat into their bag for them to find later, along with funny note to make them smile.
  • If you spot a greetings card someone you know would like, you could buy it and pop it in the post to them, just because…

You see, it doesn’t take much to make someone else – and yourself – feel better. We are often so busy we don’t let the people around us know we value them. Doing so is easy, it doesn’t have to cost anything, and we can give them a wonderful, warm glow that they can carry with them for the rest of the day. I often imagine how much happier the world would be if everyone in it did a small act of kindness every day. It would change everything.

The Ripple Effect

How, exactly, can just five minutes a day begin to ‘change everything’? It’s a bold claim, I know, but I’ve seen it in action and I call it The Ripple Effect.

It happens when tiny changes in routine trigger new, positive changes in other areas. For example, someone who starts doing five minutes of exercise a day will begin to feel the difference it’s making and find themselves motivated to stop eating junk food.

It’s not hard to see how the positive effects of kindness might ripple out and improve the mental and physical health and overall lives of everyone involved. That note to your kids makes them feel loved and safe, gives them the confidence to stand up for someone being bullied. The elderly neighbour you visited feels less lonely and decides they have the energy to get to their bridge club after all. Your own self-esteem is bolstered, you feel less stressed out and suddenly that after-work run doesn’t sound so exhausting anymore.

I have seen this ‘ripple effect’ work with my patients over and over again.

Take one, small step and the benefits will ripple out into many different areas and help more than just you – that’s the true, life-changing potential of the Feel Better in 5 programme.

For more ideas to nurture Mind, Body and Heart, order my book Feel Better In 5: Your Daily Plan To Feel Great For Life.

Dr. Rangan Chatterjee MbChB, BSc (Hons), MRCP, MRCGP