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March 2015

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Learn. Love. Act.

A column by NeEddra James, M.A.

Director of Program Development and Education
 

The Kindness Remedy

 
Dear <<First Name>>,

Have you ever had one of those mornings when the idea of sinking your head into your pillow and pulling the comforter up just a little bit more is way more appealing than getting out of bed and heading out into the world? Of course you have. We’ve all had days like that.
 
If we’re lucky, some of our hardest days become easier to bear when someone does us a kindness, whether it’s letting us pass in traffic, holding the door open for us, offering to help with an assignment or offering us a compliment. But, as it turns out we don’t have to wait on someone else’s goodwill and compassion to change our mood, quell anxiety or ease depression. One of the best ways to combat the blues is by offering to others the very love and kindness we’d like to experience for ourselves.
 
In his book, The Hidden Gifts of Helping, Stephen G. Post shares research indicating that just thinking about giving and helping others leads the body to release ‘feel good chemicals’ like dopamine and serotonin. While this doesn't happen all of the time for everyone, it happens more often than not for enough of us that researchers have authored a series of studies on the health benefits of giving, volunteering and offering compliments. And the question motivating much of this research is what is it that leaves the giver feeling as fulfilled as the recipient?
 
The answer? The super-molecule Oxytocin. Post and other researchers have demonstrated that helping others carries a minor risk: in order to help someone else, we have to reach out to that person without any certainty that they will pleasantly receive our kindness, or see it as a kindness at all. Possible rejection triggers the release of low levels of cortisol in body, otherwise known as the stress hormone. As I’ve mentioned in earlier columns, chronic exposure to cortisol has injurious effects on the body, and on the immune, neurological and cardiovascular systems in particular. The good news is that when we help others our bodies experience an oxytocin surge. Oxytocin, also called the bonding hormone, the love hormone, or simply the “most amazing molecule,” protects us against cortisol’s damaging effects, while also creating a sense of trust, connection and attachment between us. It’s no wonder researchers are finding that people who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not.
 
Two weeks ago I facilitated a Challenge Day at Newfound Regional High School in Bristol, New Hampshire. After setting up about 130 chairs in the Challenge Day circle, tucking tissue boxes away, hanging Notice, Choose and Act banners and greeting adult participants, I headed towards the door in search of the restroom. A couple of students kindly pointed me in the right direction, and as I walked towards the bathrooms I saw a huge banner encouraging me to “Start with a Compliment.” I stepped closer and began reading compliment after compliment. The students of Newfound Regional offered shout outs for everything from offering a smile to being a helpful friend. Just reading the compliments made me feel a little lighter. When I walked back into the gym I was a bit more ebullient, more engaged, and more curious about the people around me. The studies were right! Simply being exposed to the kindness embedded in the compliments had a positive effect on my mood. If we start our day with a compliment or offering someone help, we mobilize the kindness remedy to stay one step ahead of our stress and the harmful effects of cortisol. And, as an added bonus, we trigger a cascade of ‘feel good chemicals’ for someone else; someone who’s now more likely to pass on the goodness to another person.

We want to hear from you! If you’re doing things to create positive change in your community please share them with us on our Challenge Day blog.

 

Click here to read last month's article, The Art of Loving or to read past newsletters and articles featuring Challenge Day. 

Adult Workshops

Level 1: Being the Change Workshop
A beginner's course for adults and older teens, ages 15+.  If you're ready to take the next step in your personal development, then our BTC Workshop is for you.  Through fun, engaging and simple activities, you’ll gain powerful tools to increase self-love, re-connect with your life purpose, and be celebrated for your authentic self. 
 
Level 2: Living the Change Workshop
For Graduates of our Being the Change Workshop, this course is for adults and older teens, ages 15+.  Join us for an in-depth and compassionate exploration of your life to celebrate what is working and have an opportunity to take action and powerful healing to create the life of your dreams. This workshop is hosted only once a year in Concord and Holland.

Being the Change Teachers Day
Committed Teachers and Educators are invited to join Rich and Yvonne for a powerful day of growth.  We'll be sharing with you the 10 Best Practices for Teachers and Role Models, giving you a window into the philosophies and practices that we have successfully used with youth around the world since the beginning of Challenge Day.  

 

  • March 18 - BTC Teachers Day, Holland
  • March 20-22 - Women's Retreat, Holland
  • NEW:  April 17-19 - Being the Change Workshop, Houma, LA
  • May 22-24 - Living the Change Workshop (Level 2), Concord, CA (once a year)
  • May 30-June 1 - Being the Change Workshop, Holland
  • June 6-8 - Living the Change Workshop (Level 2), Holland (once a year)
  • June 11-14 - Bigger Game Expo, Silver Bay, NY
  • NEW:  August 28-30 - Being the Change Workshop, Concord, CA
Register

Meet NeEddra James

NeEddra is a writer, graphic designer and activist from Oakland, California. She earned a BA in Religion from Bowdoin College, and a MA in History of Consciousness from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

While working toward her doctorate degree and struggling with low self-esteem, NeEddra began to understand that personal transformation is at the heart of sustainable social change. So in order to take better care of herself so that she would ultimately be of greater service to others, she left graduate school and invested time in her spiritual practice, her art, and grassroots organizing. NeEddra now sits on the board of the Common Fire Foundation which supports the development of intentional communities that manifest more just, sustainable and loving communities in the here and now, and on the board of Planting Justice, an urban permaculture and food justice nonprofit.

As a Challenge Day Leader, NeEddra combines her love for teaching with her belief in the power of loving-kindness, forgiveness and compassion to transform our relationships. When she is not traveling for Challenge Day, she lives in a cooperative urban homestead in Oakland, California with three other people, four chickens and her dog, Lylah.  If you really knew NeEddra, you would know...

 

A Teacher's Perspective

The Challenge of Challenge Day
by Lee McClain, Brady Middle School Teacher
 

When my seventh grade students ask me what Challenge Day is in the months leading up to February, I always turn the question back to them. “What do you think it is? What have you heard about it?” And, always, I am met with an assortment of answers—valuable scraps of tribal knowledge passed down from the upperclassman who have, in their wisdom and age, transferred to their younger counterparts Everything You Need to Know to Survive Seventh Grade. Woven within each wisp of the Challenge Day rumors is one prevailing fact whose significance somehow dominates all other Challenge Day facts: On Challenge Day, everyone cries. A lot.

Although I won’t refute that all important detail, I think my students would agree that, having finally experienced this day, it is so much more than a day where “everyone cries a lot.”

Sure, for some reason, the crying factor of the Challenge Day experience has an unbalanced presence in the retelling of the day and its reputation among students.


But, bear with me. I have an answer for why that may be.


Perhaps it’s not the crying that is so utterly magnitudinous—such that students include it as the defining repute of the day. Perhaps it’s the reason for the crying that forges the true Challenge Day legacy.

Read the full article here. 
Read the latest news articles about Challenge Day here.

 

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Bigger Game Expo in New York

Are you ready to play a bigger game in your life?

Do you have the feeling that you should be doing something bigger or different?

Are you ready for a change and/or not content with the status quo?

If you answered yes, then join our Founders, Rich and Yvonne, on June 11-14 in New York at The Bigger Game Expo… an event that showcases a wide variety of world-class game-changers, each creating a positive impact in our world. 

Challenge Day friends can enter Group Code bigsave for $100 off your registration fee.

Learn more and register
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