Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Making Time for Kindness With Dr. Michelle Robin
[00:00:02] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 386 of Live Happy Now. World Kindness Day is just a month away, but there’s no reason not to start observing it right now. I’m your host, Paula Felps. And this week, I’m joined by Dr. Michelle Robin, Founder of Small Changes Big Shifts, the Big Shifts Foundation, and the 31-Day Kindness Campaign.
Launched in 2019, The Kindness Campaign is a free inspirational email adventure that begins October 14th. When you sign up, you’ll receive a daily email suggesting an act of kindness that you can do that day. Michelle is here today to explain why kindness is so good for our wellbeing, how the campaign came about, and what it can do for you.
[00:00:47] PF: Robin, thank you so much for coming back on Live Happy Now.
[00:00:50] MR: Thank you for having me. I love the mission.
[00:00:53] PF: Oh. Well, I love your mission, and it aligns so well with everything that we do at Live Happy Now. So you’ve got a wonderful campaign we’re going to talk about, but I’ve got to know, why is kindness your jam? Like why is it such a hot thing for you, and how did you get so involved in it?
[00:01:09] MR: Well, it’s kind of a funny story. So my background’s around wellbeing. I’ve been around the space about 40 years. As I replay my life, which you tend to do the older you get, you got to kind of see where people have enriched your life. So in my second book, The E-Factor: Engage, Energize, Enrich, I really talk about getting engaged in the wellness journey, and then you have more energy. Then once you do that, you try to just enrich.
So part of my mission right now is to enrich other people’s lives and make an impact. As a kid, my mom was married four times. By the time I was 17, I had a little bit of sexual trauma and a little bit of alcoholism trauma, and just really didn’t feel like I mattered, especially to the people that you think you should matter to. But by the grace of God or universe, there are people that came along in my life that were kind to me. You don’t really see it until you can reflect older and realize what has happened and what has sustained you through some of those tough moments.
But this Kindness Campaign is pretty funny. One of my friends, Ann Koontz, who’s in our wellness movement in Kansas City, she’s a mental health advocate. I happen to be working with her daughters when they were teenagers about 15 years ago, and she knows that I have other online programs that we do around sleep and around posture. She said, “You know what? You really need it.” You know when somebody says, “You really need to do something around kindness. You need to do a 21-day kindness program.”
Paula, I don’t know about you. But sometimes, it’s like, “Really, you want me to do one more thing. I’m already running a practice. I’m running a movement. I do a podcast. I’ve got seven books.”
[00:02:37] PF: Like, “Sure. Let me just tack that on to my to-do list.”
[00:02:40] MR: One more thing, it happened to be the fall of 2019. Thank God that she kept insisting that I do something. She said, “I’ll even help you. But we need to start it, and we need to end it on World Kindness Day with Lady Gaga’s movement.” I said, “Okay, Ann. You win.” She kind of wore me down.
I believe in being kind. I’m the person that holds the doors for people. That’s just kind of who I’ve become. Interesting enough, I talked to one of my friends, Dr. J. Dunn, and she’s a genetic specialist, and she said, “Michelle, you actually have the kind gene.” Some people actually have this kind gene, which is pretty fascinating. So that was put inside of me, and then Ann kind of poke the bear. Then we know what happened in March of 2020. Thank goodness, we’d already built The Kindness Campaign.
[00:03:22] PF: Let’s go back to that for a minute. When you talk about the kindness gene, one, if there’s people out there saying, “Oh, crap. I don’t have it,” let’s talk about how they can develop this like a muscle. But what is that? What do you think that does, the kindness gene, and how does that change how you’re interacting in the world versus how someone else might interact in the world?
[00:03:42] MR: Yeah. We all have a genetic roadmap called the genome, and that genome has different – I like to call it divisions. So like if you were, let’s say, in a Walmart or a Target, they have different divisions. They have a toy division, and they have a home goods division, and they have a food division. They may have an auto division. Well, you have these different divisions in your body that make your systems work because we’re chemistry. We work because of chemistry, right?
Those divisions sometimes have hiccups, whether it’s in the way your liver detoxes or in the way your body – In my case, I have a vitamin D receptor defect, and so my body has trouble keeping my vitamin D up. So I have to work really hard at that. It could be where I have trouble with the thyroid genes. It could be where I have trouble with the genetics that go along with neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. I mean oxytocin.
So what we have found out through the work of, especially, Dr. J Dunn, who’s a chiropractor by training as well, but she specializes in kinesiology, in genetics. So there’s a way to start to, in a sense, hack the genes in a positive way through chemistry, not necessarily pharmaceutical. Sometimes, that’s necessary, but more through the right supplementation because those – I think about them as wheels. Those cogs in the wheels move because of chemistry, whether it’s a cofactor like vitamin D or a B vitamin or B12 or B6 or magnesium or calcium or boron, whatever type of maybe nutritional supplement.
For myself, personally, I got my genetic genome. The cheapest way to do it is through someplace like Ancestry. There’s some places that don’t give other people access because they’re not owned by Big Pharma. Then I have a functional medicine doctor who practice kinesiology that will actually help test through and compare to my blood work what I can be doing. So some of us have this cup half full, and some of us have a cup half empty. If it’s half empty, you got to work really hard to make it full.
Paula, for me, I suffer from anxiety, and I believe after caring for people for 30 years that most people have a level of anxiety. Some people manage it through music. Some people manage it through medication. Some people manage it through alcohol. Some people manage it by maybe playing a video game. For me, I actually manage it by being a connector. That’s probably one of the biggest ways I manage my anxiety is be of service for people.
[00:06:06] PF: That’s so interesting because your mission and kindness has been – You’ve created something so incredible and so big. It started with your Big Shifts Foundation. Can you talk about what that is? Then we’ll get into The Kindness Campaign.
[00:06:20] MR: Sure. Big Shifts Foundation is a foundation to make generational change for 30 and younger. You can say, “Michelle, why 30 and younger?” Think about a pond. If a pond has a bunch of dirty fish, you probably don’t want to be fishing in that pond, right? Because you don’t want toxicity.
[00:06:35] PF: That’s a great point. Yeah.
[00:06:37] MR: So if you have a child who has autoimmune disease, anxiety, depression, maybe some cancers and allergies, how could you clean up their pond because their pond got toxed out? In our medicine, we believe people are sick because of two reasons. They’re toxic or they’re deficient. Toxic in, let’s say, gluten. Deficient in vegetables. Toxic in hate. Deficient in love. Toxic in medications. Deficient in the right supplementations. Toxic in sitting around, being an office potato too much, versus movement.
So the foundation’s job is to really pour into young people, ideally, before they have babies, so we can clean up their pond. Because our parents, they did the best they could. If you really look at our parents did the best they could, but their training was by – In my case, my grandparents and my great grandparents and my great, great grandparents. Sooner or later, you go back to evolution and whatever your beliefs are. Something got messed up.
Because as we talked earlier on a previous show is that we innately are pretty designed to be well. Some people come in with a few hiccups, but innately we come in. We’re happy. We’re cooing. We have this ability to bring smiles to some of the hardest people as a little baby, and then something changes, and what is that that changes? Is it the thoughts we were told? Is it the food we’re fed? Is it that we sit on a device too long? Is it that we’re not sleeping because we’re scared?
So the foundation’s job is to pour into young people to help them realize that they were designed to be loved, and they’re designed to be well. So we teach them about posture, we teach them about sleep habits, and we teach them about labs. We actually do their functional medicine. As I’m sitting here, one thing that we’ve not done yet, this will be our third year doing a scholarship program with them, is we’ve not talked about their genetics. So I’m going to add that to the program. We have a six-month discovery program where they get to go to therapy, and they get functional medicine, blood work, and they get a wide membership, and they get to get massage and acupuncture and chiropractic. We just love them. Or they get Reiki.
Can you imagine being an 18 to 25-year-old? Some 18 to 30s are arranged for our scholarship program. All of a sudden, you have a bucket of money to really take care of yourself. They do they do the Hoffman weekend experiments. Experience was really how do you start to heal your heart for some of the bullying you’ve had done too.
[00:09:01] PF: That’s so important because I’ve been doing some research. I just did a report on Gen Z and how different they are. This generation, more than any previous generation, is interested in mental health. They’re concerned about their wellbeing. They will put their mental health above a work situation. It’s like they’re not going to tolerate some of the things. I think it’s such a huge generational shift. The fact that you’re giving them the tools to be able to do some of these things is really going to help propel that forward.
[00:09:34] MR: I think the word – When you look up the dictionary wellbeing, it means happy. I think people want to be happy, and it’s hard to be happy when you have a bellyache, or you have a headache, or you are nervous of what somebody’s saying about you, or you’re in pain. So how do we help them really make that shift to be happy?
It’s a super fascinating time that these young people are forcing us to really look at mental health, and they’re forcing parents to really identify and think, “You know what? I’ve had depression my whole life, and I’ve not sought help for it.” So it’s time. There are so many tools to living your best life that don’t cost a lot of money. Of course, some do. But there’s a lot that don’t. Being kind is one that doesn’t cost a lot of money, getting sleep. But how do you do – I mean, I understand that some people don’t feel safe enough to sleep. So how do we try to address that? But for the average person, at least in America, we can put down our device. We just don’t.
[00:10:27] PF: Yeah. Right. We’re connecting.
[00:10:28] MR: So there’s all those little things that we can do to try to help ourselves, and that’s what we’re on a mission to do. We’re on a mission to reach a billion people that the small changes they can do can lead to big shifts in their life and that our foundation, Big Shifts Foundation, ultimately, is really how do we help 30 and younger, not that we don’t want to help the people that are older. I mean, this campaign is for everybody. But we do know that if we change a person before they have kids, they change their genetic makeup for the future generations, and it’s going to take 2.5 generations to change what we’re in right now. We can do it inch by inch, wellness is a cinch.
[00:11:03] PF: I love that. Absolutely love that. So let’s talk about The Kindness Campaign. 31 days and it’s not a challenge. Tell us why it’s a campaign, not a challenge.
[00:11:12] MR: Yeah. So one of our friends here in Kansas City came to me. One of our corporate clients said, “Okay, Michelle. We’ve talked about building rhythm and resilience through this whole thing called COVID.” I know resilience is kind of a buzzword for people, but the word I was hearing when this came on like COVID, and I’ve heard before, even when I had a bad accent is, “Michelle, you got to develop a rhythm or consistency so that you can have resilience.”
To me, resilience – I know a lot of people are super resilient, but it’s hard to be resilient when you are dehydrated. It’s hard to be resilient when you are having irritable bowel syndrome and just like I talked about being happy. So they came to me and said, “Michelle, you know, we’re at August of 2020. We know mental health is at all time high right now. What do you think we should do?” Who wants to hear how to not to have anxiety? That doesn’t sound like a great class to go to, right? Not that we all don’t need it, but I said, “Well, you know what? We have this Kindness Campaign.” In the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “That Ann hounded me about doing it.” “Why don’t we do that?” They said, “Yes. But we don’t want it 21 days. We want it 31 days.”
They actually made that call because we used to do our online programs for 21 days. They said, “Because we are in this nasty 2020 election cycle,” like we’re in a nasty 2022 election cycle and the 2023 and 2024, probably, they wanted to overlap that. But I wanted to end on World Kindness Day. That’s important to me.
[00:12:27] PF: I love that.
[00:12:28] MR: So that’s what we did, and they helped us take it around the world. We just have grown it, and another company helped us take it last year around the world. Then we went on a listing tour to some of the schools, and they said to my team, they said, “You know what? We love what you’re doing. But can you make it more specific for kids? Because kids are really suffering.” They said, “Can you not only make it? But can you make us a curriculum for the whole year?” We said, “What we can do this year is we can make a specific deck. So we have seven kindness acts for elementary, seven for middle and seven for high school. Then we have the 31-day deck and campaign for anybody who wants to do that.
So we said okay. So we thought, “Well, wait a minute. This fits with our foundation’s mission.” The reason why it started is that’s why once again and kind of kicked it off. Then some other corporations got behind us. Now, we have 11 sponsors.
[00:13:24] PF: So tell me how this works. People sign up, and then what happens?
[00:13:28] MR: Go to bigshifts.org, bigshifts.org\kindness, and you can just sign up right there. Then all of a sudden, on October 14th, you’re going to get an email that says, “Hey, Paula. Thanks for joining us. Here’s what this is about.” We have this fun thing that my team – I’ve got a great creative team, Desiree and Zach. They said, “You know what? Why don’t we give people an opportunity to kind of keep track of which ones make them feel the best?” Because I believe we all have medicine inside of us, that the creator put medicine in me that says, “Michelle, you’re able to be a connector.”
Paula, it may say that you have a singing voice. I don’t have a singing voice. Or you have a writing voice, right. So you’re a good writer. I personally am not a great writer. I have great ideas and thoughts. But sometimes, I forget even how to spell the – So that’s not my skill set. But I do believe that once we start practicing these acts of kindness, that we’ll realize, “Well, wait a minute. I am really great at this act,” and that we start to realize that’s one of our secret sauce. That’s some of the magic that makes us who we are in the medicine.
So you’re going to get an email every day for 31 days. That’s going to say, “Hey, here’s an act of goodness today.” If it feels right to you, execute it. Why we called it a campaign is people were already challenged. We don’t want people to be challenged more. We want them to be inspired that they can not only shift their lives but they can shoot somebody else’s.
[00:14:49] PF: I love that. So what are some examples of the kind of acts of kindness that’ll get recommended?
[00:14:54] MR: Well, it could be smile at somebody.
[00:14:55] PF: That’s an easy one. We can do that.
[00:14:57] MR: That’s an easy. It’s easy. It could be to wave at somebody in the car next to you. We all have on our forehead an MFI, make me feel important, and we just want to want to know we matter. Last year, we got a chance to talk to the YOU Matter team, which was fabulous. This gal actually had signs in her car that she had put on boards, and she had pulled them up. “Hey, nice smile,” or, “Nice color of car,” whatever that would be. Or, “You matter.”
It could be that you write a note to a friend, maybe a snail mail or a card. It could be where you send a text to somebody and say, “Hey, I’m thinking of you.” So many little tiny things, and I’m excited to see what people love, and I want to hear new ideas, so we can continue to always freshen up the content.
[00:15:38] PF: I love that. So you’re a health practitioner. So what is it that you see about kindness that is so crucial to our overall wellbeing?
[00:15:48] MR: That is a wonderful question. I want to tell you, I would not have known that answer four years ago.
[00:15:53] PF: Really?
[00:15:53] MR: I would not have known it. I mean, I would have intuitively known it was good for you. But I would not have known the science behind it, probably much like the work you do with Live Happy Now, you find out the science. This is a soft skill. But this is a soft, soft skill that the research and the science proves is beneficial. So the science shows that by doing kindness to yourself, for yourself, or your pets. I’m a dog person too. I know you are too. Or somebody else, it changes your neurotransmitters.
We talked about neurotransmitters just a little bit, but you’ve got the oxytocin which is what helps you feel like you belong. We do know that people are disconnected more than ever, and they don’t feel like they matter, and they’re lonely. So people want to matter, and they want to feel like they belong. Then it also – You’ve got the serotonin and the dopamine that’ll give you some motivation and also just help your brain think more positive. So kindness actually shifts those brain chemistry. It is a natural drug to shift your mental health, and it’s one of the greatest tools you can use.
[00:16:54] PF: Let’s talk about what’s going on in our brain when we start practicing kindness. What is that – How is that changing the way that we think?
[00:17:03] MR: Well, you think about a couple things. You think about there’s something in the brain called the amygdala, and the amygdala helps control the anxiety control centers in the adrenal glands. If you’re able to help down regulate that, so instead of kind of – You know when you have caffeine, and you’ve had nothing else, and you’ve had maybe three cups of caffeine too much, and you’re jittery, and you’re kind of on edge. So kindness kind of takes that down a notch.
[00:17:26] PF: Then as we start practicing it, how does it then become part of our daily being? Because it is kind of – You and I have talked about this. It’s not – I wouldn’t say it’s addictive, but it does become a pattern if you do it consistently.
[00:17:41] MR: I think people start to pay attention. Once again, sometimes it’s harder for young brains to get that. Under 25-year-olds, they don’t see the patterns yet. But as you get more age, you get more wisdom, and you start to see the patterns, happiness and kindness, if you start to just practice those tools on a regular basis. Sometimes, people forget. I have moments where I forget. I wouldn’t say I had days I forget.
But sometimes, I get tripped up maybe to an old pattern of some of those negative thinking that we all have. The committee that gets tripped up and you’re like, “Gosh, where did I go from there?” I can almost pinpoint the minute where I’ll be like, “Michelle, at 10:00 AM, you were fine. And at 10: 20, you weren’t fine. What happened between 10:00 and 10:20 AM? Did you forget to eat today? Did you get a phone call that you’re processing, and you’re thinking it’s the end of the world?”
So I believe for myself that the more I practice this lifestyle. To me, kindness is a lifestyle.
[00:18:38] PF: I like that. Yeah.
[00:18:38] MR: Eating vegetables is a lifestyle. Moving is a lifestyle. Listening to positive music is a lifestyle. Reading affirmations is a lifestyle. So when you practice this lifestyle, you have more life in you to share with the world.
[00:18:53] PF: Then how do we remind ourselves even after the campaign ends? How do we kind of remind ourselves to make this part of our daily routine?
[00:19:01] MR: Well, it could be you printed off a few of the ones that you absolutely love that really spoke to you. Once again, I believe we all have medicine inside of us, and that is what was planted inside your soul for you to find. That is your gift for the world. I don’t know what it is, and I hope that people will find something in this campaign that they say, “Oh, wow. That is it. That is what gives me juice and gives me jazz.” So you might post it.
We’re seeing each other live by camera right now, and other people are listening to us. But I’m looking to my right, and I know you probably see me look to my right occasionally. I have a board over here to my right in my studio, and it says, “Thank God for this moment.” Underneath it, I have some affirmations, but I also have some of my people in my community that have poured into me. So when you say, “What’s my why,” this kind of can be, “I am just pouring it back to the world.” Because people have cared enough to pour it into Michelle Robin, this young woman who, to be totally transparent, is living the best life she could have ever imagined because people poured into me.
I wasn’t meant to succeed. I wasn’t – I grew up poor. I grew up abused like a lot of people. For some reason, I’m sitting, and I have a home, I have a car, I have my health, and I’ve got community. It doesn’t get much better than that. So I think that if you start to plant stuff around you to remind you, “Oh, you know what? Today’s the day or this moment I could choose another way to be.” I could be grumpy at that person who pulled out in front of me, or I can bless them. I could send them love. That’s – I think it just becomes who you are, almost moment to moment.
[00:20:38] PF: I love that. Thank you so much for all the work that you’re doing and for sitting down with me today and talking about it.
[00:20:45] MR: Well, thank you for getting behind the movement. Like I said, I love what Live Happy stands for, Live Happy Now. I love following your show. You have brought on some really insightful guests through the last 380-some episodes. That –
[00:20:58] PF: Yeah. Number 386 right here.
[00:21:01] MR: The last 386 episodes. It matters, and you just don’t know what a person’s life is tuning in today that’s going, “Wow,” that maybe make a different decision, and maybe it’s to stay alive.
[00:21:12] PF: That’s terrific. Thank you again.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:21:18] PF: That was Dr. Michelle Robin, talking about the 31-Day Kindness Campaign. If you’d like to learn more about Michelle, sign up for The Kindness Campaign, or follow Michelle on social media, visit our website at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab.
That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. And until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.