Great Kindness Challenge encourages kindness, smiles in schools, hospital | TheUnion.com

Great Kindness Challenge encourages kindness, smiles in schools, hospital

Nearly 5,000 students in Grass Valley and Nevada City are joining young people all around the globe this week to make the world a better place by doing simple acts of kindness.

The Great Kindness Challenge was a grassroots effort that began in 2008, and reached something like 5 million students by last year. The goal was to create a culture of kindness in elementary, middle, and high schools and to serve as an antidote to bullying.

Dignity Health has been sponsoring the effort for the last four years and is doing so again in 2017.

This year at least 12 schools in this community have confirmed participation, according to Vivian Tipton, mission integration director for SNMH. In addition, the hospital's own employees have been urged to participate.

Yesterday they handed out 600 fresh cut flowers to patients, visitors, and other staff members, according to Brandy Kolmer, communications specialist at the hospital.

"Kindness and humanity are big components of healing," Kolmer said. "We love being part of this movement to spread the habit of kindness here at the hospital and through the children in our community."

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Students participating in the Great Kindness Challenge are asked to complete at least 50 acts of kindness throughout the week.

According to Kolmer, the first task on the checklist is simply to smile at 25 people.

Some other suggestions from the list: compliment five people; pick up 10 pieces of trash, make a new friend, help a younger student, hug your friend, whisper thank you to the librarian, or help someone in need.

"The list can go on and on, and we encourage kids to invent their own acts of kindness," Tipton said.

Actually, scientific evidence is piling up that kindness does promote well being, Tipton noted.

"It not only helps the recipient of a kind act," Tipton said, "but also is proving beneficial to the person that does the kindness."

For example, a 2005 study by Hewlett Packard measured how various stimuli can improve an experience.

"The study found that just seeing a smile can stimulate the brain and boost your mood to the same level as eating 2,000 chocolate bars or receiving $25,000 in cash," Tipton said. "I love this, because it shows that smiling is such an easy but powerful gift to others."

The science behind smiling also shows significant health benefits; smiling or seeing a smile can release endorphins that help to manage stress and even act as a natural pain reliever.

A 2012 article in "Psychology Today" said studies have found that smiling is not only contagious, but makes all of us more attractive.

Other studies have indicated that smiling can lower blood pressure and improve our responses to stress, Tipton said. "Even a fake smile has been shown to help," she added.

"It's so easy to be kind," Tipton said. "The other day I watched as one of our ambulatory nursing staff was wheeling a patient in the corridor. She said, 'Oh, it's kind of chilly, let me get you a blanket.' I was touched by how simple and thoughtful that was, and how these kinds of incidents go on all day in a hundred ways in our hospital. It all just boils down to kindness, even if that may sound overly simplified. But it makes such a huge difference."

Tipton continued, "When I'm feeling a bit stressed I just walk around the hospital to 'air out,' and I see kindnesses being done and I go back to my office feeling filled up with warmth and happiness. It makes the rest of my day so much better."

Kindness doesn't have to be confined to the schools and the hospital, Kolmer said. "No matter where you are, a smile or a simple hello to a stranger can start a ripple effect throughout your day. And that can impact the health and happiness of you and everyone around you. There are plenty of things that are contagious … we're really happy that kindness is one of them."

The Great Kindness Challenge is happening now through Jan. 27. More information can be found at TheGreatKindnessChallenge.org.

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.