I’ve just got back from Ireland having a dream time riding a horse across the mountains and ending up at the seas of Donegal. It was way way beyond what I could ever have hoped for and very lucky I am indeed on many levels.
Apart from the stunning landscapes, the rolling hills and weather that changes every time you blink, I was blown away but just how nice everybody was. Not slimy nice but just genuinely nice. Bus journeys across the country were hilarious with a 6 hour journey lasting seconds when accompanied with the chatter and laughter of travel companions only just met. Perhaps prompted also by my delayed understanding of what a Donegal greeting ‘How you doing?’ means. It simply means hello and not actually ‘How you doing?’ needing a long and drawn out answer. It was a week before this finally twigged and then people were spared my ten minute answers which should have actually just been ‘good thanks.’ Hey ho. Pretty much every single person waved and smiled, especially when we were trugging along on the horses. But even without a horse, the very standard behaviour is just be nice. The general feeling is that everyone wishes the best for one another. The enormity of how simply beautiful this is stopped me in my tracks.
What I very quickly noticed is the sheer relief at being surrounded by niceness. There is a whole level of fear that is instantly removed when you are immersed in a mentality where the standard is just to be polite and nice to those around you. A whole level of fear that comes from being unsure as to what response your very presence may elicit from others, what mood they may be in, how your breathing in and out might piss someone off for some reason. It is instant all round happy and less stressful.
And here’s the thing… Being nice is way way easier than being shitty to people. Studies have been done on what it means to be nice although it is slightly sad that a study has to actually be done. Anyway, studies have shown that being nice helps you live longer, makes you happier and stress levels are way down. Being nice causes our brain to release endorphins which are the chemicals that give us the feel good factor. Doing something nice for someone also gives the brain a serotonin boost (anti depressant), another chemical that gives us a feeling of well-being. It seems mad that everyone doesn’t just sign up to being nice, the benefits are for everyone and it is so gloriously simple. Smile. It’s free, it’s catching, it’s really really good for you.
Yesterday I went to help my son do his amazing work clearing up at festivals. The place looked like tens of thousands of people had been sucked up into the air leaving more debris than the brain can actually imagine. I take my hat off to him and bow, what he is doing is hard graft and he’s in it for the long haul. I turned up to find dozens of cars driving onto the site. Out of the cars poured people of every size, shape, age and background, all coming to help clear up. In the space of a just a few hours we had half filled a 7.5 tonne truck with sleeping bags and people were cheering at the thought that they would go to people who needed them. It was wall to wall nice people. Genuine people who were brimming to the gills with their give a shit.
So being nice not only gave us a whole load of exercise, smiles and laughter but we all got to hang out with people that we wouldn’t normally hang out with. The star of the show was 6 year old Oliver who stacked sleeping bags in the truck for 3 hours solid and never once stopped smiling. It was impossible for any of us to grumble in his shiny presence.
So be nice. Nice is easier. It feels so unpredictable sometimes whether someone will be nice or not and I find that really unsettling. What changes could be made in this world if we were all just simply nice? It doesn’t have to be complicated or saintly or gushing or idiotic. Just nice. Perhaps one of the most underrated words in our languages. I leave you with a shining example of two really fabulously nice humans…