The Power of Kindness

Rush employees volunteering at a surplus kitchen

No matter how you look at it, 2020 has been a tough year for many of us. As Thanksgiving approaches, the CHEE team has been thinking about kindness and how we can share it to boost mental and physical health for ourselves and others.

“We live in a time where division and a lack of civility have become the norm,” said Darlene Oliver Hightower, vice president of community health equity at Rush University Medical Center.

“This tension affects our physical health and mental well-being. The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, sheltering in place and the lack of physical connection with others can also take their toll.

“To combat these things, now more than ever, we need to grant ourselves and each other grace. Instead of highlighting differences, let’s practice acts of kindness that can bring us closer together. That’s how we will begin to heal our communities, cities and country.”

Performing acts of kindness is good for us in two ways. It helps mental health by building beneficial feelings of gratitude, compassion, empathy and community. And it contributes to physical health by increasing levels of oxytocin (the “love hormone”), while decreasing blood pressure and levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”).

Here are a few ideas for practicing kindness during the Illinois stay-at-home advisory.

  • First, make sure you’re being kind to yourself: Eat healthy food, drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep. If you’re feeling stressed, lonely or sad, check out How Right Now for some ideas and resources.
  • Write cards or letters of gratitude to people who mean a lot to you. Everyone loves to get mail!
  • Donate online to local nonprofits like shelters and food pantries that are helping people during the pandemic. Rush partners with Franciscan Outreach and Beyond Hunger.
  • See if your senior neighbors need help with their pets, yard work, shopping for groceries — or just need someone to check in by phone every day or two.
  • Leave notes of thanks for your mail carrier and other delivery people.
  • Check out virtual volunteer opportunities that let you do good from home.