Response: "How Memories of Kindness Can Make You Happy" by Greater Good Magazine
The body-mind connection is a very powerful thing. Despite knowing this, I’m continually amazed by it. It’s so strong, yet so subtle. Most of the time we’re not even aware that there is this great dialogue happening within our bodies.
The truth is, our body believes everything that our mind thinks. Seriously. If our mind is thinking about something scary, our body will respond to that fear with a shallowing of the breath and tensing of the muscles.
Some other examples:
Focus your attention and think about your favorite pizza: body responds with digestion activation, such as salivation
Focus your attention and think about being taken advantage of: body responds with anger, jaw clenches, muscles tighten, and focus narrows
Focus your attention and think about hanging out with your best friend: body responds with full breath, muscles soften, heart opens, mouth might even smile
Most of the time, we not really paying attention to how often our body is shifting through experiences, largely because we’re not really paying attention to where our mind is wandering off to. The good news is, we actually have a lot of control over that:
You can influence how you feel by where you focus your attention.
Research backs this up. A new study from the University of California, Riverside showed that consciously remembering past acts of kindness experienced a notable increase in well-being, positive feelings, and life satisfaction. This was equal to the experiences of people who had been engaging in the acts of kindness. The memory of the action was equal to the experience itself. Not only that—the experience of increased positivity and well-being remained stable throughout the duration of the 3-day study.
This really speaks to the power of our attention and focus.
When we focus our attention and thoughts on memories on past experiences of shame, hurt, and loneliness, our body will hold onto those emotions and the corresponding physiological responses. When we allow ourselves to look back in our collection of past actions and recognize the acts of kindness we offered in the world, the moments of joy, ease, or tenderness, our body will respond by reliving those emotions and physiological states.
The next time you find yourself in a funk, spiraling in self-deprecation, or feeling like you don’t matter, scan your memory banks and recall moments of kindness that you brought into the world. Your actions make a difference—and create a positive ripple through the world. Let your mind—and your body—breathe that in for a bit.
Because you matter. You matter a lot.