This month Stephanie Davies encourages us to be kind.
Nothing hurts quite so much as a public tumble. While physically, you can often escape with a few minor bruises, the emotional impact of making a tit of yourself in public can have deep, long-lasting effects.
Which is why, when most of us slip over or stumble in a public place, we tend to carry on as if nothing has happened. Most would rather limp off with a compound fracture than acknowledge that we’ve slipped up. This is doubly true in London where no one wants to show weakness and few people have the time to tend to a fallen comrade. Everyone is far too caught up in their own lives to worry about other people.
I know. I’m being regionalist and this is a vast generalisation. But I have evidence. On one of my last forays onto public transport before lockdown 2.0, I suffered the ignominy of a flat out slip when I jumped into a train carriage on the Underground at Waterloo Station and landed flat on my arse. There was no styling it out and I was caught with a captive audience.
Slightly dazed it took me a couple of second to get back to my feet. And in that time around ten people stepped over and around me, hurrying off to find a seat, totally unconcerned at my welfare. I’m a Northerner and so, rather than do the aforementioned hobble of shame, I loudly exclaimed: “It’s alright everyone, don’t worry, I’m fine. Nothing broken.”
This, of course, mortified everyone in the carriage and they all looked away immediately and avoided any eye contact for the remainder of our time together.
That carriage was devoid of kindness that day, which is something that often seems in short supply. I know I risk the wrath of all Southerners here, but I will stick my neck out to say that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have received the same nonchalance had my mishap happened in Liverpool.
Our bodies are designed to reward us for being kind. When we perform kind acts our brains release dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter, and endorphins
Indeed, many of those who ignored me on the Tube would have reacted completely differently if they had been in other settings. This is because we adapt our behaviours to fit different environments. The process is a kind of group collectivism.
We act in a certain way in certain places to fit in with the groups we are with, and as a result it appears we are not as kind or altruistic in cities like London as we would be elsewhere.
There is a chance of redemption however for those working in high-traffic, fast-paced environments where there isn’t the time or inclination to tend to fellow human suffering, because we are now working from home. And as such, we could find a societal reset where values of kindness and consideration are allowed to resurface once more.
This will only be a good thing because at our core, human beings have an innate urge to collaborate and look after each other. Therefore, as a species, we’ve been so successful and built thriving societies. This wouldn’t have been possible without kindness
Our bodies are designed to reward us for being kind. When we perform kind acts our brains release dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter, and endorphins. This effect is often referred to as a ‘helper’s high’ because endorphins mimic the effects of morphine.
Kindness also has a positive impact on wellbeing. Studies show that perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population. It can also lower blood pressure and anxiety.
So next time you’re on a train and a clumsy woman face-plants in front of you, maybe check if she’s okay and help her up. You never know, it might make you feel good.
About the author
Stephanie Davies is the founder of Laughology.