Interview with Eva Ritvo, MD, author of Bekindr: The Transformative Power of Kindness
By Patrice Samara
What motivated you to write about kindness?
During a difficult time in my life, the kindness of a stranger impacted me greatly. I had a wide support network and, as a mental health professional, it struck me as very odd that somebody I didn’t know would be so helpful and kind to me in my time of need. We still haven’t met in person. After that experience, I reflected on it and wondered, “Why was a stranger so kind? How did someone who didn’t know me, know exactly how to help me? Have others had similar experiences?”
So, I did some research and talked to many people about kindness. As I got involved with the project, I started to see that kindness is indeed everywhere and that it’s up to us to try to focus our lives on being kind.
I think society has become very distracted with so much information coming at us from every direction. We live in a flat, globalized environment with a 24/7 news cycle…it can be very overwhelming. We are now exposed to problems around the world in graphic detail. Our brains are not designed to handle this much information and our nervous systems are overstimulated. Many people are responding by living in a very fear-based way. Others have just shut down. We’ve lost touch with that basic drive to be kind to those around us. So often our noses are stuck in our cell phones and we are not noticing what is going on right in front of us.
“I think that society needs to refocus and readjust priorities.”
I think we need to try to look more accurately at what goes on in our daily lives and see the wonderful things that surround us much of the time and work to create more positive experiences during our days. Partaking in small acts of kindness, like smiling at someone, holding a door open, letting someone cut in front of you in traffic, and asking somebody how their day was are all vitally important to our sense of well-being and our connections. I think that society needs to refocus and readjust our priorities.
Collecting stories from around the world, we narrowed it down to sixty-four diverse contributors hoping that every reader could find stories that they relate to and are inspired by. I dedicated the book to my kind stranger and to both of my daughters.
So, you were motivated by a personal thing that happened. Now can you tell us about your professional study of kindness?
As a medical doctor and a practicing psychiatrist, I have been seeing patients for over twenty-five years. When I see something that interests me, I tend to dig in deeper. There has been a lot written about kindness from many different perspectives.
From a medical perspective, being kind is good for our health. When we are kind, we are counteracting our arousal system often called the “fight or flight” response and strengthening our parasympathetic nervous system nicknamed the “rest and digest” or “tend and befriend” response. The parasympathetic system makes us feel relaxed and content. It helps us conserves energy as it slows the heart rate and allows us to release oxytocin which makes us feel content and connected to others. It is nicknamed the “love or cuddle” hormone.
Notice how the healing phase of trauma occurs when we activate the parasympathetic response. People rush in to help after all kinds of disasters. We have seen this time and time again.
You can also strengthen your parasympathetic nervous system by being kinder to yourself with activities like warm baths, meditation, listening to relaxing music and more. There are limitless ways to be kinder.
As a psychiatrist, I have learned not to tell anybody exactly what to do because everyone’s journey is unique. I simply want to plant a seed that possibly your life would be a bit better if you decided on a regular basis to incorporate a bit more kindness into your day.
I wrote Bekindr: The Transformative Power of Kindness so it could be kept by the bedside or in the living room. I like to call it a thinking book. It can be picked up and read in bite-sized pieces. Behavioral change takes time and needs reinforcement. As you go through your day, look for opportunities to be kind. You can decide to be kinder to yourself, to strangers, colleagues, friends, spouses, children, grandchildren, animals or the environment. The ways to Bekindr are limited only by your imagination.
What role can grandparents play in being kind?
Grandparents, Step-Grandparents and Honorary Grandparents are a truly special group of people! They can lead their families and their communities by example. They can demonstrate being kind in both small or big ways every day…from a smile or a phone call to volunteering or helping someone in need.
Do you have a story about being kind? We would like to hear from you and you can win Bekindr prizes!
Have you been the recipient of kindness? Tell us about it! Have you done something you considered to be kind? How did it impact you? How did it impact the other person? What helps you be kind? When did you last feel kind? What was it like for you?
How can you Bekindr? Have you been kind to a stranger? Has a stranger ever been kind to you? Did you become friends after? Has a stranger ever changed your life? Did it change you in any way?
No story of kindness is too small.
Just a few minutes of your time can change the world!
Send us your stories of kindness 100 words or more by January 15, 2018 to firstname.lastname@example.org
A PANEL OF JUDGES WILL SELECT FIVE STORIES TO RECEIVE A BEKINDR BOOK, BAG, AND HAT. THE TOP STORY WILL RECEIVE A BEKINDR BOOK, BAG, HAT & A $50.00 AMAZON GIFT CERTIFICATE!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – PATRICE SAMARA
Emmy-winner Patrice Samara has 20+ yrs experience as an author, strategic advisor, producer, & spokesperson for communications, media, entertainment & cross-cultural expert working in 30+ countries. Author of seven books in the Alphabet Kids Book Series. White Papers: Parent’s 10 Step Defensive Guide to Children’s Internet Safety; Privacy, Security &Identity in a Networked, Data Driven Educational Environment; Youth & Violence the Unanswered Questions After Columbine; Plagiarism: Definition, Realities, 21st Century Misconceptions. She dedicates pro bono time/resources mentoring youth & supports education.