In episode 1 of the (UN)Broken podcast, Dr Rachel explains why she hates the ‘be kind’ movement and why we all need to practice a kindness habit daily.
Find out what neurotransmitters underpin kindness, what you need to do to get them firing in your brain today and every day, how your environment can limit your ability to be kind and how you can use acts of kindness to be your best always.
Discover how kindness is underpinned by a mechanism that is imperative for our wellness and wellbeing. Spoiler alert, it is not about how many likes you get on your social media posts!
Key Insights From This Episode:
- I think kindness is actually lost in translation
- If we are not used to being kind to ourselves, and this is going to be quite unfamiliar territory to us.
- The one thing that I want you to take away from this is that kindness isn’t anything to do with social media, mainstream media, what you do to others.
- Be kind is how we can be the best human beings, having the best experience in the most supportive environment that we can create.
- Let’s start the kindness focus so that it will become habitually yours, what you need to do to feel good about yourself, what you need to do to be kind to yourself, what you need to do to enable your body to work in the optimal way in your environment.
- As long as you are being kind to yourself, being honest about what you need, not what you want, then you will be moving forward.
- When indulgence turns into a habit, then we can see that it can be quite destructive.
- We need to start putting things in place, taking responsibility, having self-autonomy, to be able to be kind to ourselves.
- The kinder we are to ourselves and the better place we are to be able to move away from self-destructive behaviour, from being imposed upon by everybody else’s needs coming first and not own.
- Just laughing can generate an anti-aging hormone that’s actually going to protect us and be part of the kindness formula.
LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE OF THE (UN)BROKEN PODCAST HERE
About Our Host
Dr Rachel Taylor
Dr Rachel Taylor is a neuroscientist with decades of experience exploring, discovering and solving everyday challenges faced by many, as well as listening to and telling the stories of people she comes across in her endeavour to show difference is good, trauma is endemic and joy is connection. She started UnBroken as she wanted to highlight that the system is broken not people and uses the UnBroken podcast to share her learnings, honest conversations and words of wisdom with the UnBroken Tribe of listener.
UnBroken is founded upon the belief that the environment in which we were born, grew in, live in, work in, play in and rest in has a huge impact on how well we believe we are and how well we perform. Wellbeing and optimal human performance are not simply about the absence of disease, they are about the ability to live purposefully, intentionally, joyfully and freely.
UnBroken provides a range of supportive online resources including a podcast, blog, apothecary and monthly online membership for people who dare to be different, are open to possibilities and want a different pathway to their own version of success.
Dr Rachel: Hi, everybody. Welcome to the UnBroken podcast. Today’s show is basically all about one of my both pet hates and all long-term endeavours.
Today we’re going to talk all about kindness. Kindness to me is one of my get on the soap box moments when I talk about kindness. Especially when that is highlighted within mainstream media, within social media, what I generally term as shallow kindness.
And each it’s really interesting because before started recording this podcast, I actually did a quick check on just how popular #bekind is on Instagram now. There’s 11 million Instagram posts that have the hashtag #bekind, but interestingly, it’s not even in the top hundred most popular Instagram hashtags for 2021.
That was really interesting to me because I think kindness is actually lost in translation. And what I want to talk about today is how to support yourself in kindness, how you can support yourself in kindness to be human. And for those of you who are new to the UnBroken Podcast, we really want to emphasise the impact of the environment on you as an individual and how everything external actually affects you internally.
Particularly with kindness, it’s often an observation of mine that there is lots of encouragement, lots of motivation for people to be kind to others. But not as much kindness to be shown towards the self. And I think that is where we quite fundamentally get it wrong with kindness. I really think that kindness is not the construct that we generally think it is.
Along similar lines I think that happiness is a social construct and you know, there’s no such thing as happiness. It’s a collection of expectations and meeting those expectations, leading to other positive emotions. I think kindness, we need to turn it on its head. Kindness is what we need, not what we want. And that is pretty fundamental to me, because what we once might be in direct odds of what we need.
And as I’m talking about that, I’m thinking of Nanny McPhee. I’m pretty sure there’s been many times in my life when I both wanted, and needed Nanny McPhee, but she never turned up, ever. But if we look at that, that what we need, what is good for us, that’s what’s going to help us with progression. What’s going to help us with medium and long-term strategy, it’s not always what we want at the time. And just think about that.
I think that we can get indulgence and kindness mixed up all the time. So just think about that. When have you endorsed yourself when really you should have been kind to yourself? I have done it often. I remember there was a particular dark moment in January 2021, where I indulged myself by taking myself off to bed at 6.30 at night where the children were in bed, and enjoying more than a few squares of Green and Blacks and kidding myself that because it was 85% cocoa that that was good to me. It wasn’t. I was getting into a really indulgent trap.
Kindness is what we need. So just think about that. When we are feeling less than, when we are feeling like we don’t belong, when left feeling valued, when we are feeling that everybody else’s needs come before ours, when we are feeling that we don’t get the same support as we give out to others, what can we do to be kind?
And if we are not used to being kind to ourselves, and this is going to be quite unfamiliar territory to us. We need to think about that as well. So the messaging that’s all around us, what we are responding to, what our influences are, what we are familiar with, what we are not familiar with.
Interestingly, in this podcast, I want to sort of introduce you to the biochemical formula for kindness, which as you know, I am so interested, so fascinated, passionate about learning about the body, the brain, specifically the nervous system, how that responds to external stimuli. And I love to learn about neurotransmitters, hormones in our body, how they interact, how they don’t interact, what we need to have the optimal, habitus in our bodies, so basically how we can stay homeostasis, how we can be the best that we can be.
And finding out about all the different hormones, how they interact, what we need to have, in particular around the biochemical formula for kindness was so fascinating to me. Both fascinating and also, oh, that’s not really that surprising.
So I wanted to introduce to you your four ingredients to have that biochemical kindness mix. So you need endorphins. You need serotonin, you need oxytocin and you need a really nice little hormone neurotransmitter called DHEA. Why do we need these? Why do we need these?
So endorphins you’ll have heard about. Predominantly we’ve heard about them as being pain relievers, which are produced of block pain, both physical and emotional pain. And, interestingly, you may have heard me say this before, but if not, we experience pain, physical pain, and emotional pain in the same area within the brain. Which is really interesting in terms of how we are affected by pain, whether it be physical pain or psychological, emotional pain.
Endorphins are also responsible for feelings of pleasure. They motivate us to feel good and to repeat the activity, to feel good.
Now, we’ll talk about this some more later, but I know most people associate endorphins with working out. Don’t worry. There’s other ways to get endorphins. We don’t need to go and do a vigorous workout, but it’s the one good way of doing it.
So the second hormone that want to talk about is serotonin. Now serotonin is one of my favourites. Not because it’s the happy hormone, which I think it’s mistakenly labeled as. Because that it really denigrates and really minimises what serotonin actually is. Serotonin regulates homeostasis. It regulates the balance in our body. It regulates our mood, arousal, cognition, memory.
Too much serotonin there is sedation and apathy. Too little, and there is low mood, lack of willpower, poor appetite control, anxiety. There’s issues with bonding and being social and there’s sleep disorders. And this is really interesting. I’m going to do a podcast on this, around a good night’s sleep. How we get a good night’s sleep and it starts with a good morning, it starts with enabling our body to start getting a good dose of serotonin in.
It’s so much more than the happy hormone and I think we need to start proclaiming that loud and far and wide to whoever will listen is that serotonin really is a regulator.
So the third one I want to talk about, DHEA, is the steroidal hormones found in the adrenal gland. It has anti-aging properties, but also wards off chronic conditions and diseases and has a strong, significant correlation in studies with reports of warmheartedness.
I don’t know whether you know about your adrenals. Tiny little glands that are basically there to help to mitigate stress in our lives. And when you see how small they are, how you actually realise just how little stress we actually should be under, and should be feeling, it should be there for an emergency situation.
And in particular, the anti-aging properties that is released with DHEA. It’s arguable that to be kind actually is going to keep us young, and this is really important.
So fourthly and lastly, my favourite hormone, oxytocin. This is very much a pro social hormone. It evokes feelings of calm, contentment, security, reduction in anxiety levels. If we have too little oxytocin, it can lead to depression, poor communication, heightened anxiety and fear. Disturbed sleep cycles, sugar cravings, irritability.
And interestingly, the dark side of oxytocin, if we have too much, it can lead to aggression and out-group suspiciousness. So it’s like with people outside of your clique, it’s like, oh, who are they? You know, I feel quite aggressive and don’t want them to belong to my group.
So really interesting that all those four hormones together combined to have the biochemical formula of kindness. So taking all that into conditions. So our body’s basically work on stimulation through the senses. And in terms of that kindness formula, just thinking about that, how were your senses employed during your day?
Is it beneficial to you creating an environment that is kind for you. And kindness for you is having an optimal environment that’s going to enable all of those hormones to function.
So have we got enough balance in the day? Have we got enough rest in the day? Have we got enough connection in a day? Are you feeling endorphins at any time? Are you able to generate those endorphins? Are you minimising stress, to enable all of these hormones to work together really well?
When we’re talking about serotonin and it can be generated naturally from foods that contain tryptophan. Doing aerobic exercise for 15 minutes per day, supports that serotonin production as well. And this is when you are between 60 and 65 of maximum heart rate. I’m not saying you have to beast yourself. I’m saying you just need to literally get a little bit warm and get a little bit breathless. Just push yourself just for 15 minutes, just to get that slight sweat, just that feeling that you actually doing something just for 15 minutes.
We need 15 minutes of bright light, daily. That’s the UV lights, full spectrum light, preferably in the morning to support the production of serotonin. And really what you could do, you know, for quick serotonin tips, you know, workout outside for 15 minutes per day. That’s it to keep your serotonin levels pretty much tip top.
Make sure that you’ve got a good diet, eating probiotic foods, such as yoghurts, fermented foods can increase the amount of tryptophan in the bloodstream as well, which supports production of serotonin. So really simple things to get your serotonin going.
So oxytocin generated by connections. Eye gazing, handholding, laughing, playing, massage, hugging, kissing, and doing things with friends and family, connect. Connect with people, just look at people, just look them in the eye, just know that we’re all part of the human condition.
That’s the kindest thing that we can do. We are parts of something bigger than ourselves. We need to realise this. So how do we generate gate DHEA?
Well, it’s a mother hormone generated by the adrenal glands. Very important to assess your stress levels. How stressed out are you, do you have sufficient resting sleep? Are you able to switch off? It’s always interesting to me and I know I’ve mentioned it before when people say, “yeah I do nothing. I do yoga. I do visualisation”. And it’s like, no, that’s not nothing. That’s still doing something. Are you able just to switch off? Are you able just to breathe, start little, start small. Try one minute. It’s really difficult to do nothing for one minute, because we are so conditioned that we have to begin doing something.
Doing exercise also generates healthy levels of DHEA, as does following a low calorie meal plan. Enriching the Omega three fatty acids. And even more importantly, or laughing also helps to stimulate the production of it.
So these are really novel ideas, is that generally when people are feeling unwell, they rely on the medical model. So you know, needs to go to the doctors, get a prescription. But part of the UnBroken mission is to enlightened people and bringing people closer and connection with themselves, with others, with the environment, is that sometimes we can have really simple solutions to embrace being human, to embrace being UnBroken, to embrace actually, what do I need today to be the best version of myself? Just laughing can generate an anti-aging hormone that’s actually going to protect us and be part of the kindness formula.
So how can we get endorphins other than, you know, doing a high impact interval training session, or literally running a marathon? Yeah, exercise. Just do that. But also eating dark chocolate, having a sauna. Eating spicy food, creating things, creating music or art, you know, drawing, colouring. Dancing, meditation, all of these things, human interaction, everything combines together to promote our endorphin production. It’s not merely just a pain reliever when we’ve pushed ourselves too far.
It’s actually a motivating hormone that to solidify habitual behaviours that make us feel better. Look all those four hormones, all of those connected together create a kind environment. So think about what you’re doing to promote those hormones. Join it together with your environments and conditions.
Are you making decisions and choices that are supporting this production of these really positive hormones? Are you choosing activities that will support your kindness? The kinder we are to ourselves and the better place we are to be able to move away from self destructive behaviour, from being imposed upon by everybody else’s needs coming first and not own. Because remember, we are not automatons, we are human beings.
We have complex biochemical reactions to what is going on in our environment. So if we are not feeling okay, we remember I say this often, it’s not okay to not be okay. We need to start countering that ‘it’s okay to not be okay’. It’s never okay. It’s not okay, to not be okay. It shouldn’t be acceptance of not being okay.
We need to have a step beyond that. We need to start putting things in place, taking responsibility, having self autonomy, to be able to be kind to ourselves. That’s what kindness should be. Kindness should be first and foremost to ourselves. And then we can be kind to others, because if we are ignoring ourselves, and focusing everything on others, that’s not kind. That’s self-sacrifice and we don’t want to be doing that.
We want it to be really concentrating on how we are enabling ourselves to be the best human beings that we can be. And then we can cascade it outwards, and then we’re being really good role models. Then we’ll taking responsibility for ourselves. Then we’re having autonomy over our decision-making. Just remember that.
So everything I spoke about today, I’ve given multiple ideas on how you can be kind to yourself. And just one last thing is that whatever you choose to do, just think about “how am I going to feel in a day from doing this? How am I going to feel in a week from doing this? How am I going to be feeling in a month if I do this? And what is the effect going to be in a year?If I do this.”
Just think about that. Because we need to be careful that we are not indulging permanently. I’m not saying don’t treat yourself. I’m not saying it’s completely out of order to be having that bar of chocolate, that glass of wine, however, you might indulge yourself.
That’s not wrong. But when indulgence turns into a habit, then we can see that it can be quite destructive. When we set the habit of being kind and reflect on what kindness is, so we’re stimulating production of all those hormones, then we can start to make a real difference to how we feel about ourselves and how then we feel and manoeuvre and behave in an environment.
As long as you are being kind to yourself, being honest about what you need, not what you want, then you will be moving forward. And remember, you are the expert on you, always. Little steps soon add up to big shifts. We really need to think about that.
Let’s start the kindness focus so that it will become habitually yours, what you need to do to feel good about yourself, what you need to do to be kind to yourself, what you need to do to enable your body to work in the optimal way in your environment.
Thank you all for listening everybody. Kindness is one of my bug bears. It’s something that I do all literally get on a soap box about, because I want to start a new movement on be kind. Be kind is how we can be the best human beings, having the best experience in the most supportive environment that we can create.
Thank you for listening and I shall speak to you all soon again on the in broken podcast.
This is your 60 second recap of what we’ve just covered in our session about kindness. So the one thing that I want you to take away from this is that kindness isn’t anything to do with social media, mainstream media, what you do to others.
Kindness is all about how you are kind to you. How you generate and maintain the full hormones that basically make up our biochemical kindness mix.
So how you generate your serotonin, your oxytocin, your DHEA, and your endorphins, what you actively do every day to maintain the best environment for those hormones to do their job. That’s it, that’s kindness. In a nutshell.
Once you can be kind to you and once you have kindness nailed for you, then please go out, be kind to everybody, teach them everything that you have learned about kindness, but until you can be kind to you, keep your secrets to yourself, maintain and generate and get those hormones doing what they need to so that you are ultimately kind to you.
So there you go. There’s your 60 second recap. So see you again soon on the UnBroken podcast.