Today, I’m featuring my first guest post. Lisa Bendall is a friend and colleague whom I’ve known for many years. We often swap notes on writing, editing, and the magazine industry. Enjoy her post on how good deeding leads to good mental health for kids and adults alike.
–I’ve been writing about kids for years. And I also spout off regularly, to almost anyone who’ll listen, on the subject of good deeds and random kindnesses. So when Lisa Tabachnick Hotta asked me to drop by her blog, it was a no-brainer to merge the two topics together.
Five years ago, I set myself the challenge of doing one good deed a day for 50 days straight. Like any working Canadian parent, my life at the time was non-stop hectic. But part of me suspected it didn’t actually take so much time, energy and money to make a difference in the world. I wanted to give it a try and see what followed.
So for 50 days, a lot of the talk around the supper table each evening centered on what good deed I’d done that day, and what kind of results I’d observed. (Did I get strange looks when I collected up garbage at the park? What did the administrator at the local nursing home say when I carried in fresh flowers from my garden?)
But the reaction that left the deepest impression on me was that of my daughter. Seven years old at the time, she seemed enthralled by my various daily good-deed adventures. She offered up endearing suggestions for new good deed possibilities. And then she started going out of her way to do good deeds of her own.
Emily had always been a rather considerate kid, at least I thought so. But even more so now, after 50 days of good deed discussions around the dinner table, she began to accept random kindness as a normal part of the family culture: It’s what we do.
I love this, because of course we all want our kids to be good citizens. Kindness, thoughtfulness, helpfulness, these are character traits we feel right about instilling in our children. But what I didn’t consider then was the impact this could have on my child’s mental health. And now, thanks to five years of exploring the topic of good deeds, I know it’s one of the healthiest practices any of us can have.
Research consistently demonstrates that doing good deeds is good for us. Counting up the deeds we do actually raises our level of happiness. Helping others increases our sense of connection with our community. Doing volunteer work reduces stress and symptoms of depression. Volunteering even makes old people live longer, for Pete’s sake!
I don’t know about you, but when I’m mapping out my kid’s future, that all sounds like pretty spectacular stuff to me.
So the word is: Teach your children the value of good-deed-doing, and you’ll be increasing their odds of lifelong mental health. It’s not hard: Have conversations about kindness. Be a role model by performing simple acts of helpfulness, even if it’s just holding the door for a stranger. Let them choose the foster child you support in Africa.
You’ll raise caring, compassionate kids, but you’ll also be doing so very much more for them.
–Bio: Lisa Bendall is a freelance writer and author of two books, including Raising a Kid with Special Needs: The Complete Canadian Guide. Her award-winning blog on acts of kindness and other ways to make a difference can be found at www.50gooddeeds.com.