Being kind guide

Being kind guide

Rachel Grunwell's guide to giving and being kind this season

Words Rachel Grunwell. Illustration Janelle Barone, Makers MGMT

Giving back to others and being kind is contagious. Share kindness and it will grow. The person who receives a kind gesture ‘catches’ the good vibes and is then inspired to spread these positive feelings further.

Giving back and being kind uplifts your happiness levels too.

I’ve been speaking at some wellness events recently, inspiring Kiwis with tips on health and happiness. A piece of the ‘happiness puzzle’ is giving back and being kind. Not only does kindness make us and others feel good, studies have demonstrated that the psychological benefits of kindness are actually reflected in the neural circuitry of the brain enhancing feelings of wellbeing and the flow of feel-good endorphins.

So don’t let caution get in the way. It’s normal to feel cautious about lending a hand.You may be concerned that some people may want more time, or resources, than you wish to gift. My advice is to choose a way to give that resonates with you. 

Give on your terms. Never let your motivation be that you want something in return.Remember that even the smallest gestures can mean a lot and have a ripple effect.Can you recall an occasion when someone helped you in some small way? Like offering you a seat on a bus, or carrying your bag? This can release feel-good hormones and make you smile. 

Consider ways to help. It may be helping a friend, family member, work colleague, your community, a school, charity, or even a stranger. It can be transparent or behind the scenes. 

Do something ‘just because’. I became more attuned to the importance of giving back after I became a parent. I wish for my kids to be kind. One way to teach them is to lead by example. I have a young family, I’m busy with my own business and have a to-do list that never seems to end. But I make time to be a voluntary ambassador for the Achilles International New Zealand charity, which helps disabled athletes in running events. 

During the years, I’ve helped disabled athletes through many fun-runs, half-marathons and marathons. 

I have a pile of race medals by my bedside in a draw. I call these ‘dream tokens’. Each medal holds incredible shared memories of struggles, triumphs and sometimes joyful tears.

I’ll next help blind Auckland runner Tamati Pearse through the New York Marathon in November. I will be part of a team that guides Tamati among 50,000 runners, using a guide rope and verbal cues. I’ll make sure he has enough water and fuel, that each step is safe, and it’s done at a monitored pace. 

I’ll describe everything I see to him. I know the sounds of 100,000 moving arms and legs, and almost three million supporters cheering him on will fuel moments of magic. Being part of this New York team helps me experience more than words can describe. I share a passion for running and so I deeply connect with this charity and this community. 

Tamati and the rest of the team inspire me with their can-do attitudes. They teach me that any barriers we face in life are only the ones we truly set ourselves. And to do anything in life, it’s about finding your own unique way.

The Achilles charity has become like a family to me. I care about everyone involved and love it when each member is successful at reaching their goals and dreams. I can’t help all the members of this charity all of the time, but I can help sometimes. That can mean something to someone else and it gives me a meaningful purpose, too.

I spoke recently via Skype with American-based Orly Wahba, author of the Kindness Boomerang book.

She says: “You see the beauty in others and in yourself with kindness”. She also says that kindness can “leave an imprint in your heart”. It’s her dream to make kindness ‘trending’. She believes everyone has the power to make a difference. Whatever you do matters, sometimes profoundly so.


Rachel is a mum, marathoner, writer, yoga teacher and director of inspiredhealth.co.nz


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