Become a RAKtivist

You have a whole week to plan.

Pull a team together to be co-conspirators. I’ve put my thinking cap on already.

Just thinking about next week’s special day puts a smile on my face.

I’m talking about World Kindness Day, an annual event that’s celebrated on Nov. 13.

It’s easy to keep our heads down and our tails up in our day-to-day living, but our attitudes of busyness keep us stuck in the stress cycle. Waking up and spreading thoughtful goodness into the worlds is a practice worth cultivating.

I love feeling like a secret agent for good, as I perform random acts of kindness (RAK). It’s so much fun to watch people’s responses. RAK always makes me feel better, and there’s scientific evidence revealing why.

World Kindness Day began 21 years ago. Twenty-eight nations now participate in The World Kindness Movement, whose mandate is to create a kinder world by inspiring people and nations toward greater kindness.

I love kindness stories. This April, a band of kindness-spreaders snuck into a local grocery store, armed with post-it notes filled with kind words close to closing time.

I’d have loved to have been among them as they made their way through the aisles, affixing their merry messages for the staff to find in the morning.

That’s one type of mischief I want to be part of.

Practicing RAK can be simple. Simply holding the door for another, paying for the coffee of the person behind you in the line-up, or extending a smile or a compliment are all quick and simple ways to engage in the act.

Practicing RAK not only makes this world a better place, it’s scientifically proven to be good for our health.

People who practise kindness experience a decrease in:

  • Pain, as natural pain-killers called endorphins, are secreted
  • Stress, as the stress hormone cortisol, is reduced
  • Effects of aging, also related to reduced cortisol
  • Anxiety
  • Depression, related to secretion of serotonin
  • Blood Pressure, due to secretion of oxytocin, which dilates the blood vessels

Practicing acts of kindness increases:

  • Cognitive function
  • Energy and feelings of strength
  • Happiness
  • Lifespan
  • Pleasure
  • Self-esteem and optimism, due to secretion of the love hormone oxytocin

Kindness is contagious. It’s the kind of virus I’m happy to spread.

People who witness or experience an act of kindness are more likely to perform one. The positive effects of kindness are reflected in the brains of everyone privy to kind acts.

If you want to feel better, experience a bit more bounce in your step, and feel more connected, this is a simple, quick, and easy way to do so.

Kindness is teachable, and there are school programs available to assist educators in including kindness in their classrooms.

There are organizations and websites dedicated to RAK, each sharing strategies and research into the subject. I’ve signed up, and I’m planning something special for Nov. 13.  Check out this link to register and to find out.

Become a RAKtivist, and involve others in your planning to spread the benefits. Be the one who starts the movement in your circle.

Let a wave of kindness ripple out, with you as the epicentre.


Smile your way to health

I can take myself and life a little too seriously.

Being an adult comes with many demands and responsibilities.

Working in the healthcare field was serious business, after all.  Life felt serious, and this belief seemed to harden the expression on my face.

With so much to do, there wasn’t much to smile about.

It turns out smiling is a simple, but powerful practice to support our health and happiness.

I love being around people who smile.

Our facial expression either attracts or repels people. A smile is like a magnet, drawing people to us, while a frown or scowl pushes people away.

If you want to draw people in, smiling is a powerful tool.

I’ve witnessed this with my friend, Lori. She has the best smile, and wears it often. Nothing beats someone breaking into a wide grin when they see you.

The sight of Lori’s smiling face causes me to soften and relax, as I am drawn to smile back at her. I can’t help it, and it feels good.

I was curious; is smiling simply a nicety, or is there more to it?

Scientists were also curious about the effects of smiling, and I like what they’ve revealed.  

While there’s a strong link between the toothy grin and longevity, there are even more immediate benefits we can experience on a daily basis.


  • Make us more attractive and appear younger
  • Reduces stress hormones and decreases the stress response in our bodies
  • Elevates our moods, through stimulating positive neurotransmitters in the brain
  • Boosts our immune system
  • Lowers our blood pressures
  • Is like a natural drug. It makes us feel better, even reducing body pain.
  • Helps us look on the bright side, even when challenge arises
  • Makes us appear successful
  • Is contagious, and is one of the best viruses we can spread.

Smiling sends a reward signal to our brains, which then sends a signal of happiness to the body. It becomes a positive-feedback loop.

A genuine smile positively changes our brains.

The scientist within me decided to conduct my own experiment to find out if a simple smile could make me feel better. I must admit, at first it felt odd, smiling for nothing, but then I noticed a shift inside my body.

I now make it a practice to remember to smile, especially when I’m feeling stressed. Instead of letting my face harden into my old mask of concentration, I pause and remember to smile.

I allow the muscles around my eyes and the corners of my mouth to soften and lift. I can feel the changes this makes to my body and my mind. Letting our eyes smile is an important part of the equation.

 The scientists are right, and I’ve learned I don’t have to wait for something to smile about.

While a genuine smile is the most effective, even a forced smile, moving the facial muscles causes a positive shift inside our brains and bodies.

Researcher Andrew Newberg offered suggestions to learn how to create a genuine smile.

“Visualize someone they deeply love, or recall an event that brought them deep satisfaction and joy. It’s such an easy exercise, and we train people to do it.”

I used to wait until there was something to smile about, but no more.

In doing so, I’ve found more reasons to smile. I’ve made it a practice, even pausing to smile before answering the phone. People can tell if your smiling, even if they can’t see you.

Smile! You just might like it. So might others you encounter.

Hurry sickness an epidemic

We just have to wait! It’s a fact of life.

Waiting isn’t pleasant if you suffer from hurry sickness.

  • Grocery line-ups
  • Traffic lights
  • Slow drivers
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Being stuck in voice-mail hell waiting for the next available representative

Life is full of waiting.

I crack myself up as I approach grocery line-ups, scanning, not only for the shortest line-up, but also checking-out how many items are in each buggy. This is an important part of the equation, as is the demeanour of the clerk at the till.

There are many things to consider when choosing a grocery line, and I’ve become expert.

Having ingrained habits from living life in a hurry, I find myself subconsciously taking in all of the variables as I approach the teller, simply out of habit.

Heaven forbid I pick the wrong line.

I suffered from hurry sickness, a prevalent condition in our society.

The thought of hitting every red light, or calling a government agency with a call-cue used to cause my shoulders to tighten, and tension to build up in my body. 

Slow people drove me crazy; couldn’t they see I was in a hurry? My mind grumbled, I grew irritable and impatient with every delay. 

I know I’m not alone in the tendency to be in a hurry because I’ve made a study of watching people in those moments of waiting. I see many people who are just like me, suffering from hurry sickness. 

Hurry sickness is a term coined by two cardiologists, Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, who noticed many of their patients displayed a sense of time urgency.

They always felt rushed and there was never enough time. It had negative effects on their health.

As I’ve learned about the impact my thoughts and attitudes have on my health, happiness, and relationships, I’m forming a new habit.

How we wait affects our health. Hurrying and impatience activate the amygdala, the fight-or-flight centre of the brain. The body prepares for battle.

The amygdala doesn’t question whether our lives are in danger. It just reacts, and the body follows, as it floods with adrenaline and cortisol. 

The heart rate increases, the blood vessels constrict, and perception narrows; body systems are put on alert as it prepares for attack. We may be more abrupt, and we don’t really hear what’s being said to us. Small things irritate us.

Because we’re over-using the stress response, our health suffers as we perceive threats to our lives in situations where we’re not at risk. Every-day life is experienced as a threat.

Many people are so used to living in a constant stress response, it feels normal.

It may be normal, but it’s not good for us. 

Living in the stress response is toxic to our health, and we may be doing it out of habit. We can break this habit with awareness.

Waiting can be annoying, for sure. But, if I have to wait, I prefer it not cost me my health, as well as my time. So, I use the time constructively.

I now notice when old habits of stress and tension begin. I pause and take a few slow, deep breaths, and I smile. 

I open my awareness, and awaken from the virtual reality of my mind to notice what’s really happening around me.

  • What do I see,
  • What do I hear
  • What do I feel?

I feel my muscles soften as I choose to bring myself totally present to the moment.

When delays happen or I have to wait, I don’t let hurry sickness lead the way. I use red-lights, long grocery line-ups, and times I have to wait as opportunities to relax, practice mindfulness, and become fully present. This supports my health and happiness. 

Waiting is not going to kill me, but stress can.


Who inspires you?

We all have tough times when life feels rough or we feel stuck.

I had a tendency to withdraw during rough times.

When I did this, I felt alone and shut-off from the goodness and joy of life. It was hard to pull myself out of the rut.

What do you do when you’re feeling challenged or at low ebb?

While taking time to pause and reflect is helpful, getting stuck in life’s troughs is painful.

A practice that’s been invaluable for me is reflecting on people whose lives and journeys inspire me. I love drawing from their stories.

I remember that anything’s possible. If they can do it, so can I, if I choose to.

I have many inspiring people in my life, each one offering me a unique view of human potential and possibility. I’ve learned to turn my mind toward them when I feel stuck or down.

Who inspires you? If them, then why not you?

One person who continually lifts and inspires me to greater ways of being is Barbara Samuel, a local singer, vocal coach, and minister.

Simply spending time with Barb lifts my spirits. Her love and joy are infectious. Her life reminds me to be willing to stretch myself, and grow outside of my comfort zone.

Barb’s a woman of strong faith, who reveals the power of living life based on intention, vision, and courage. She faces life head-on, rising above challenge, recognizing anything’s possible.

While living what may appear to be a charmed life to many, Barb works hard, constantly remembering her life’s purpose of creating relationship with others through music, and to be all she can be.

She chooses to be a role-model for her grand-babies.

Barb spends herself consistently, uplifting people as she travels through life, leaving a ripple of joy and inspiration in her wake.

Barb shares the gift of her many blessings saying, “I just want people to be happy, to create a moment and a memory of joy and happiness.”  She does this on a consistent basis.

Life has a way of stretching and growing us past our comfort zones if we’re willing to embrace new possibility and challenge. It’s easy to stay within our own comfort zone, declining new challenge, creating regret for missed opportunity.

While fear stops many from living their greatest potential, what scares Barb the most is not seizing the opportunities life brings.

Barb reminds me that anything’s possible, and life’s too short to play small. She’s has the courage to say yes when opportunity knocks, even when it’s scary.

Barb’s life has been a journey of self-discovery, of finding talents and abilities she didn’t know she had.

Having grown comfortable with her role of lead singer in the Kelowna band, Sista B and the Boyz, Barb’s said yes to new opportunities that would frighten many.

She’s learned to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Last year, never having acted, Barb accepted the role of Deloris Van Cartier in Kelowna Actor Studio’s Sister Act. Her new talent was revealed, as she lit up the stage, to the delight of audiences.

Not willing to rest there, she’s now accepted the new challenge to share herself in Creekside Theatre’s upcoming Rock Me Baby. Barb’s growing yet again, as she shares more about herself and her journey.

Rock Me Baby is a celebration of Women and Music, showcasing the best of women’s music from the 1960’s to today. Each choreographed song in the seven sets of this upcoming production holds special meaning for Barb, as she feels it’s time to reveal more about herself and her journey with her fans.

It’s easy to play it small and safe, but then do we really live our full potential?

Barb joked in saying falling down while wearing high-heels is her greatest fear. In reality, what scares her most is not doing it; it’s fear of walking away from new opportunities when they arise, and the empty feeling that would follow.

We miss life’s opportunities when we stay stuck in our comfort zones. Fear of change and failure can stop us, but we lose out.  Yes, we could fall down, but if we do, we can always get up and begin again.

Barb Samuel inspires me to show up in life, to move out of my comfort zone, to risk becoming more, and to live a life of no regrets. She reminds me of the importance of one person showing up to say yes.

What talent or opportunity is waiting to express through you? What limiting stories get in the way?  Are you willing to face the fear and do it anyway?

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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