Submitted by Allison Allen
Let’s begin with an experiment. I think it’s one I have suggested in a past missive, but it’s quick and worth repeating. Imagine you are looking at someone you do not trust. Your least favorite politician may come to mind, or that kid who made your life miserable in high school. Notice how your face feels as you do, especially all those little muscles around your eyes.
Now look at…
Awww! How are your eyes now? Soft, right? Go back and forth a few times, hard eyes, then soft eyes. Notice how the change in your eyes cascades through your whole body, leaving lots of muscles either more or less tense. You may also notice as you look at this adorable puppy (soon to arrive in the loving home of our own Megan Collins!!!) that you spontaneously take a deeper, better breath, complete with that good, long exhale.
Why am I talking about this today? Because our theme is kindness, and soft eyes are kind eyes.
Kindness, I think, is almost magical, a universal solvent making whatever else you are trying to do more likely to succeed. What do I mean by “universal solvent?” I had a vague recollection of this term from high school chemistry and I looked it up. One helpful result (thanks, Google!) states that “…water is called the “universal solvent” because it dissolves more substances than any other liquid. This is important to every living thing on earth. It means that wherever water goes, either through the ground or through our bodies, it takes along valuable chemicals, minerals, and nutrients (USGS.gov).
In a similar way, wherever kindness goes, for instance into a challenging conversation, a near-collision in a grocery store, a random payment for the next person’s coffee at the drive through, it “takes along valuable…nutrients” in this case the good stuff that makes our lives feel not just more pleasant but also more deeply meaningful. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking with our best friend, our worst enemy, our boss, someone we manage, a stranger, or ourselves. Kindness is always, universally, possible and beneficial.
Kindness is not a mood we need to be in, it is an approach, a mindset, a choice, and it’s one we can get better at. So, an excellent practice in building up our kindness muscles is the one we started with. Consider intentionally looking around your work space with softened eyes, regularly, especially when you are NOT feeling it, just to see what happens. And also, pro tip:consider looking at yourself, your actions, your ups and downs with soft eyes. It’s very hard to be truly kind to others, consistently when you are harsh toward yourself. If it’s hard to be kind toward yourself (and for many of us it IS really hardL) remember that what is good for you is good for those around you, is good for the whole community. It’s okay to be good to you!
Allison Allen is NorthLakes Chief Behavioral Health Officer.