Someone choosing unkindness rather that kindness

Unkindness May Be Killing Us

I’m a life-long politics junkie. But I’m giving it up for my health. The constant vitriol coming out of Washington DC, its amplification on cable news, and the late night comics piling it on are leaving me exhausted.

Not only can those on the left and on the right not agree on anything, the expression of differences is mean-spirited and divisive. It’s gotten to the point that the issue itself — whether a second amendment or healthcare debate — is secondary to the goal of debasing the opposition. It’s unkind. And it’s unhealthy.

The rise of social media allows more expression of anger and derision, which has to be taking a toll on our mental and emotional health while increasing depression and anxiety. And there’s plenty of evidence that anger — expressed or not — raises risks of cardiovascular disease and weakens the immune system.

I hope we never have another 9-11. But I would love it if we could find a way to get back to the civility and courtesy shown by the traveling public (and society in general) in the months following the attack. Everyone was polite. Everyone was patient. Everyone was kind. Sadly, that wore off.

Most wellness professionals learn this early on: It’s difficult to get ornery people to change poor health habits, and upbeat people are more open to health improvement suggestions — as well as more likely to follow through. It’s a strong argument for encouraging those you serve to focus on getting past their surliness in order to achieve wellness. Some program themes:

  • Be good to others. Treating others with respect, courtesy, and kindness is liberating — a way to enhance your own quality of life by contributing to a better work, family, and community environment. It creates positive energy that can be used to change health behaviors for yourself and those around you.
  • Choose healthy habits. While everyone feels trapped at one time or another — in school, a job, or a relationship — no matter how constrained you may feel in other areas of your life, you do have the freedom to make healthy decisions.
  • Make someone’s day… every day. Encourage participants to set aside 5 minutes every day to share a genuine compliment, show gratitude, or just express interest in the life of a coworker. They’ll come away feeling good and you’ll feel even better.

With careful execution, you can impart these themes as practical applications, without offending or sounding abstract and preachy:

  • Role models. Everyone knows a high achiever who’s exceptionally gracious and kind. Write a feature article about them in your employee blog emphasizing how they excel at their vocation and achieve balanced living through service to others.
  • Feature articles. Consider a series of daily health tips on the joys of civil behavior and benevolence as well as the freedom to choose.
  • Parenting classes. Good manners, like good health habits, start at an early age. Teaching parents how to train children to respect others and act with kindness will reinforce adult civility and courtesy while helping parents be better examples.

For more ideas, read How to Launch a Workplace Kindness Challenge on the blog.


Dean WitherspoonDean Witherspoon
Chief collaborator, nudger, tinkerer; leads the most inventive team creating well-being and sustainable living programs. Reach out if you’d like to talk about employee well-being, emotional fitness, or eco-friendly living.