The Hippocratic Oath is the oath taken by doctors to do no intentional harm to those that they treat. It’s a simple concept, but why reserve it for doctors?
Kindness has an immense power to make us feel better about ourselves and lead happier lives. Being on the receiving end of kindness also has its obvious benefits. But kindness takes effort and forethought. Because of this, it’s taken a back seat to other forms of instant gratification like scrolling through social media, taking selfies, and talking negatively about people. These things feel rewarding in the moment, but in the long run, they offer us no tangible benefit. It’s time for a change. We need to be kind to each other again.
As humans, we’re born into kindness in the form of nurturing. Whether this is done by one’s mother, a caretaker, a labor and delivery nurse, or some other positive figure in one’s life, we all learn to grow and function under the kind eye of a nurturing person. We’re the only mammals who aren’t born self-reliant creatures. We need others. This never changes. We never stop needing others, whether we care to admit that or not.
So, if kindness is literally programmed into our DNA, why is it so difficult for us to make a regular habit of?
I blame the internet.
The internet makes it easy to be unkind because there’s always a veil between you and the person you’re harming. You are causing harm, they just aren’t aware of it. Many people don’t consider the mean things they say to be harmful because the person isn’t aware of it. But they don’t need to be. The act of saying it or thinking it is enough to cause negativity to multiply within yourself. That’s a toxicity that prevents you from growing and meeting your potential for happiness in your own life. Is it worth it? The instant gratification of saying something negative about somebody else to make yourself feel good isn’t worth it in the long-run. But foregoing that instant gratification is what makes kindness so difficult for us.
In order to become a kind person, it takes practice. Negativity and cruelty are like any other negative habits. They have to be broken and replaced with positive habits. You have to be able to put your ego and cheap thrills aside and find your own motivation for being more positive. Once you do this, it’s smooth sailing.
When we’re kind by habit, we gain more benefits than just the obvious increase in happiness and positivity. We improve our physical health, as well. It’s true! When we’re kind, we’re less stressed and the body releases less of the stress hormone cortisol. This keeps our heart healthier and helps to slow down the aging process. It also helps us improve our relationships and connections with others. When we’re negative and cruel, the people that overhear us or are in the conversation with us will take that personally. Even if they’re laughing along with you, the subconscious will raise red flags and they won’t be able to trust you as much. After all, if somebody sees what you talk about when somebody isn’t there, they’re going to wonder if you do the same to them when they aren’t there. Plus, it’s said that “your vibe attracts your tribe”. If you’re happy and kind, it stands to reason that you’ll befriend other people along that same wavelength. Happiness begets happiness. There’s more for everybody!
When you’re trying to practice kindness more in your own life, it helps to remember the “golden rule”. Remember the one that you probably heard a million and a half times in grade school? The golden rule states that you should only treat others how you’d like to be treated. When you’re learning to be kind, it helps to ask yourself how you’d feel if you were on the receiving end of your statement or action. Doing this will give you a perspective about your behavior and will help you to see what’s right and wrong when you understand how your actions and statements affect people. This is how you learn to take the Hippocratic Oath in your own life. You do no harm. You shall not cause any sadness or pain to others intentionally.
From there, you can keep moving forward with kindness. There’s never too much kindness in the world. Try incorporating small acts of kindness into your day every day. Give somebody a compliment, pay for somebody’s coffee in line behind you, catch up with an old friend, offer to help somebody carry their groceries to their car. Whatever you do, spreading kindness in the world will never be a mistake. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
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