How Many Ways is Kindness Contagious?

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

Breathe deeply through your nose into your belly and exhale completely through your mouth. Make a sound.  Perhaps a sigh. Put a hand on your heart as you breathe and you get an extra bonus.

That tiny break in the action gives your body a chance to shift from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system (healing; rest and digest.) It only took me 108 seconds to breathe in deeply to a count of 4 and breathe out fully for 8.  I did that 3 times. Did you try it? This particular breath helps normalize blood pressure. Right now I need that.

Why is that important? The “outside” world is causing a lot of fear and anxiety these days and that continually stimulates fight or flight. That sympathetic system is really useful when we are in acute danger. The adrenaline and cortisol it produces are mighty handy (along with 50 or so other biochemicals) when we truly need it.

When we activate it too often, however, our body doesn’t get an adequate chance to rest, repair, and heal. It impacts the strength of our immune function. It makes us less able to access our creative resources.

Chronic stress causes illness, short term stupidity, and is highly contagious.

Even a happiness coach can see how tough things are out there. I’m no Pollyanna – my happiness is hard-won from conscientious attention to my in-the-moment choices. Hence my suggestion you breathe, consciously, and on purpose more often. It’s becoming imperative that we as leaders get our own reactions under control.

It’s time for all leaders to step up. And if you don’t think of yourself as a leader – I urge you to consider thinking again. We are all leading someone or something and of course – our own lives!

Not only are you responsible for your own mental health in the middle of this chaos – you are responsible for those you lead as well.

Yep. Time to step up.

In order to guide your people through these troubled times, you may need to rise above who you’ve been up until now. You might want to create a perspective that gives you the ability to create a safe emotional space for the people you lead. Goodness knows we need that.

We all wish things were different. But they are not. And all indications are they are going to get worse and then better and then maybe even better. Who really knows? It looks like we need to get good at living in uncertainty.

So how do we – even in the complexity of current crises – find a way to create more perspective, more positivity?

To create possibility? To ask the question – “What does this make possible?”

This new reality is requiring us to all elevate to a greater level of emotional intelligence and awareness.

Whether you’ve thought about this much or not – you’re up at-bat. Whether you asked for this, or just found yourself in a leadership position – this could be your finest hour.

Whether yours is one of the companies that is benefiting from the crisis because you were in the right place with the right product, or because you brilliantly pivoted to be in the right place – or – you are a business that is struggling with the loss of revenue, customers and now employees – YOU are still responsible for showing up as your best self in the midst of this crisis.

Okay – what does this have to do with breathing?

It’s becoming very apparent that those who are able to help care for others at this time are those who have strategies for taking care of themselves and those who know more than the average leader about how the human system actually operates.

When you know how to turn on the “chemistry of calm” you access more resources inside yourself and inspire the same in others.

There are so many simple and easy ways to create micro-moments of positivity, which act like the small change you keep in the jar by the door. They accumulate and when you need a handful of positive you can reach in a grab some. By sourcing the micro-moments available to all of us when we turn our attention to finding them we can easily help ourselves to shift from negativity to positivity. That opens up “creativity” resources inside our brain and strengthens our immune systems at a time when that is critically needed.

When you lead with clarity, compassion, and love, when you increase your positivity to negativity ratio, when you become more expansive and more inclusive, you help unleash the best in others.

When you seek to understand and support people’s strengths you can increase their performance by over 36%; when you focus on their weakness you can decrease their performance by over 28% – that’s a 60 point spread and it depends on how you focus your attention. You have a lot of power.

When you use appreciating, asset focused, and empowering questions you open up possibility. ‘What’s going well and why?’ ‘What’s possible here?’ ‘What can we learn?’ ‘Where’s the gift in this?’ Your brain really likes expansive questions and will help you find the answers.

And most importantly at this critical time is seeking out all the places that you can be kind.

Here’s a really interesting fact about kindness. Whether you are the giver of the kindness, the receiver of a kindness, OR even an observer of a kind act being performed, your serotonin levels rise! Serotonin is known as the ‘rest and digest hormone.’ AND as if that wasn’t enough to make you want to create more of it, all three of you – giver, receiver and observer – also get a big boost of oxytocin as well. Oxytocin is known and the ‘tend and befriend’ chemical and it helps us build relationship and bond.

Recently I found an awesome Simon Sinek Video that will have you jumping out of your seat to do something nice for another!

Right now the world needs more kindness. You as a leader can do that – and influence many while doing it. Ask yourself frequently during the day – how can I be kind?

Kindness is a force – and if you want to read more about how that works take a few more moments and read K is for Kindness – it’s part of our 5 part leadership acronym staying on TRACK. Trust. Respect. Appreciation. Communication. Kindness.

As a leader – you’ve already had a lot to deal with – and now the intensity is heating up. The answers are “small change” simple. Start building your emotional bank account now.

©2020 JoAnna Brandi

JoAnna Brandi
JoAnna Brandihttps://www.returnonhappiness.com/
President of JoAnna Brandi & Company since 1990, JoAnna is a consultant, a public speaker and the author of two books on customer loyalty, Winning At Customer Retention, 101 Ways to Keep ‘em Happy, Keep ‘em Loyal and Keep ‘em Coming Back and Building Customer Loyalty- 21 Essential Elements in Action and a gift book, 54 Ways to Stay Positive in a Changing, Challenging and Sometimes Negative World. She is currently writing her fourth book on “How Good Can You Stand It? Positivity Practices that Help You Turn Happiness into a Habit” JoAnna Brandi is the Creator of the online learning experience The Practice of Positive Leadership E-Course: Use the Science of Happiness to Engage Your Employees and Keep Your Customers Happy and “Monday Morning Motivation,” a tool used to stay focused on keeping customers happy. She is a Certified Chief Happiness Officer through Florida International University and a graduate of Dr. Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness Coaching program. She has developed one and two-day workshops on Customer Care, Positive Leadership, and does Positive Leadership Coaching for individuals and groups. Positive cultures help create happy customers who come back with money and friends. JoAnna serves a diverse group of clients in many different capacities, in large companies and small alike. Working as a resource for TEC/Vistage, an international organization of CEOs for over 22 years, JoAnna has coached, consulted, and served as the “Chief Inspiration Officer” for CEOs, their executives and staffs nationwide. She is a highly rated speaker at conferences all over North America. In her workshops and keynotes, she motivates entire organizations to get passionate about customers and raise their “Positivity Ratios” at the same time. She specializes in creating more positive, strengths-based workplaces where employees are engaged and motivated and customers are happy and loyal. She helps her clients activate the link between positivity and profitability creating “great companies to work for and do business with.”


  1. Literally a breath of fresh air Joanna. Ultimately kindness when genuine and not a act, is a supreme healer. For kindness means empathy and empathy means kindness. To lead the way, being kind, recognizing those who subliminally signal they could do with some kindness.
    Joanna a truly splendid article.
    Simon Lever
    Championing Positivity, Empathy and Kindness

  2. I spent 4 months in the hospital for spinal surgery and rehab to get back on my feet again. The practice of 4 in and 8 out became second nature, because that’s what ever therapist banged into my head. Good advice for anyone. I use it all the time.
    Thanks for the post…