21-Day Kindness Project: Day 11
The kinder and more thoughtful a person is, the more kindness he finds in other people.
– Leo Tolstoy
Renounce Complaining For a Day:
How long can you go without complaining? This sounds deceptively simple but when you really try and practice it to the fullest, it becomes clear how much self awareness it takes to truly stop complaining. Not just at a vocal level, but also at the levels of thought and internal reaction.
As the saying goes “synapses that fire together wire together.” Our brains are a collection of synapses with empty space between them (the synaptic cleft). With each thought, a synapse connects to another by a chemical that is released, building a sort of bridge that the electrical signal can cross, carrying the relevant thought. Every time this electrical charge is triggered, the synapses grow closer together in order to better facilitate that signal crossing. This is how the brain rewires itself, and as it does, it makes it easier for the thought to trigger. In this way, your thoughts are able to reshape your brain. The synapses that are most strongly bonded together – due to repeated use – eventually become our default state of mind.
Now one more bit of science. We have what are called mirror neurons. When we see someone else experiencing an emotion, our brain tries out the same emotion and attempts to fire the same synapses in our own brain. This helps us imagine what the other person is going through, in other words, be empathetic. This works for better or for worse with emotions like happiness and gratefulness, as well as anger and sadness. So that’s why complaining often seems contagious. But kind words are contagious too, and the whole atmosphere of a group can change when someone changes the conversation towards more a more positive note.
So each time we notice ourselves complaining we have a choice, whether to keep closing the space between those synapses by continuing the complaining train of thought, or choosing the opposite. Love or fear, optimism or pessimism, acceptance or regret. Today, try to bring your optimism and appreciation synapses closer – like exercising a muscle. Try to catch your complaints closer to the root, when they are just faint ripples of unhappiness or discomfort in your mind. Bringing this level of awareness allows thoughts to dissipate before gaining momentum.
Becoming more consciously kind means choosing who we are growing into inside, as well as who we are expressing on the outside.