Kindness Is The Best Foreplay

Kindness Is the Best Foreplay

Nothing, and I mean nothing, does more to advance intimacy, in or out of the bedroom, than kindness. A little tenderness goes a long way.

A friend of mine thought of making a sign with a green side that reads “Getting Lucky Tonight” and a red side that reads “Not Getting Lucky Tonight” as an inspirational tool for encouraging behavioral shifts in relationships. It’s kind of like that hilarious book, Porn for Women, in which men do chores to turn women on. Works like a charm.

Intimacy, sexual intimacy specifically, requires the establishment of safety and comfort. When people are kind, caring, present and attentive during sex, everyone has a better time. Just think of the encounters you’ve had. Was it rude and dismissive comments that seduced you? Or was it sweet and heartfelt whispers that made you swoon? Research indicates that the top 5 qualities that make someone sexy are confidence, kindness, stability, abs (duh) and leadership. We even see popular culture showing more examples of attractive and sweet sex symbols. Just check out any Nicolas Sparks movie.

So the next time you want to spice up your love life, add a little sugar to the loving kindness and watch what happens. After all, even the bible says, “The desire of a man is his kindness.”

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Killing Resentment with Kindness

Believe it or not, resentment and anger have the power to kill. They kill our ability to lead happy and productive lives. They kill our relationships with others.
It’s been a rough week, the roughest in quite some time. Although I am reaching out and calling people in my support system, trying to connect and fighting the urge to curl up to reruns of LOST on Hulu and eat Cafe Del Sol nachos, no one seems available. Some friends! Why is it that when my shit hits the fan, people are not lining up to get messy?
Of course it makes me feel sorry for myself. I love to wallow in self-pity at times like this. Instead of looking at you-know-who (myself), I point the finger at them. I get angry and resentful that no one is running to rescue me and watch me lick my wounds. Why do I feel these toxic feelings, which make me feel physically sick, create stress and anxiety, and can lead to self-destructive behavior?
Maybe this time I should break tradition and send kindness, appreciation and love to my busy friends. By allowing anger and resentment to run (or ruin) my life, I squander many hours that could be spent on more noble thoughts and activities. Even in cases where someone purposely harmed me, anger and resentment  come right back at me like a boomerang. Sending kindness to those who challenge me in small to great ways sets me free from the venomous effects of unhealthy negative emotions.
I need to get over myself. I can still watch LOST, but I think I’ll lose the nacho chips—and the one on my shoulder—and have a few blueberries instead. I’ll be fine.  As Stuart Smalley from SNL used to say, “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And, gosh darn it, people like me!”

Kindness or Codependence?

Kindness or Codependence?

One of my favorite childhood books was The Giving Tree. I wanted one so badly—an actual giving tree, I mean. Now, I was the only child in a family that was materially abundant, but emotionally bankrupt, so it’s no wonder I fell in love with this story.

As a quasi-adult in recovery from life in general, I sometimes hear people refer to the fabled Giving Tree as the Codependent Tree. This never fails to light a fire in my heart on the subject of kindness and giving versus codependent and unhealthy behavior. In the story, the boy and the tree have a very special relationship. The boy goes to the tree when he needs help, and the tree gives what it can to meet the boy’s needs. As the boy grows up, the tree grows old. In the end, the tree has become a stump, which is just what the boy, now an old man, needs to rest. The tree has given the boy everything it had to help him. It’s a beautiful thing.

In my life, people have often held back from acting kindly and giving themselves to others as a way of avoiding being codependent. Don’t misunderstand me. True codependence, of which I am admittedly inflicted with myself on occasion, can be a truly destructive and unhealthy behavior.  Many times I have heard people say they choose not to help someone in need because they “have to take care of themselves.”  Other times I have experienced friends turn away from people in the name of teaching them to be more self-reliant. I think it’s the humanness and neediness that repels them because it triggers internal feelings of need and discomfort.

So where is the line? When does kindness become codependence? When are we holding back from opening our hearts to another because their pain scared us? When are we protecting ourselves and others from unhealthy and dysfunctional dependencies?

Until I find the answer for myself, I will keep my heart open to giving and receiving kindness to the best of my ability. When I start cutting my arms off for people, I will re-evaluate.

Perform 2 Acts of Kindness and Call Me in the Morning

The results are in: kindness promotes a longer and healthier life. It’s like the ultimate happy pill. But unlike drugs, addiction to kindness is good for you.

Scientific research shows that being kind is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Performing kind acts can significantly improve mental, emotional and physical health, and even helps diminish symptoms of physical diseases and psychological disorders. In his book, The Pleasure Prescription, Dr. Paul Pearsall writes: “In concrete terms, there seems to be a biological reward for doing the right thing. It is not necessary to carry out major acts of kindness to gain the health benefit. In fact it has been found that brief, small, regular acts of kindness yield the highest health benefits.”

According to Allan Luks and Peggy Payne in their book The Healing Power of Doing Good, kindness:

  • Promoted optimism
  • Heightens our sense of well-being, and can even bring on a euphoric state
  • Increases energy levels
  • Decreases feelings of loneliness, depression and helplessness
  • Increases sense of connectedness with others
  • Helps achieves a greater sense of calmness and relaxation
  • Enables better weight control
  • Reduces symptoms of insomnia
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Reduces pain
  • Improves circulation and reduces high blood pressure and coronary disease
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves arthritis and asthma
  • Increases recovery  from surgery
  • Reduces cancer activity

A participant in Luks’ research relates his story: “Some months ago I was so stressed out that I could barely get four hours sleep at night, and I had all sorts of aches and pains. I had even tried antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs, but to no avail. I then found out first hand that it is love that truly heals. When I do nice things for others, I definitely feel a physical response. For me it is mostly a relaxation of muscles that I hadn’t even realized had been tensed. I can now sleep well at night, and most of my aches and pains have disappeared.”

So why does kindness make you feel so good? There are two reasons. The first is that performing acts of kindness takes our mind off our own problems. The second is that while performing an act of kindness, our bodies reward us by triggering the release of endorphins, an endogenous opioid peptide that gives us a sense of exhilaration and wellbeing, helps reduce the intensity of pain messages sent to the brain, and boosts our immune systems.

There is one important catch. In order to benefit from a kind act, we must do it without expectations. If we expect recognition and the act of kindness is not acknowledged or appreciated, we might end up feeling angry or disappointed. In this mindset, the chemical benefit is lost. The negative feelings cause cellular inflammation, which is actually damaging to our health.

Like other things that impact our health, kindness is contagious. It has a ripple effect. When people receive or observe kindness, they are inspired to be kind themselves. In effect, when we choose to do a kind deed, we are actively helping reduce world tension by starting the healing process one person at a time. It begins with us.