A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be with my grandmother before she passed away. As usual, one of her first questions was, “Are you showing kindness to others?”

“Grammy,” as I called her, grew up on a small dairy farm in eastern Pennsylvania. Her greatest gifts were preparing food for others as a gesture of love and showing genuine kindness and consideration.

She knew that people who practiced acts of kindness create happiness, and those who experienced kindness feel more connected to themselves and others.

Love, kindness and connection are universal and basic human needs. Along with trust, respect, safety and acceptance, they help us thrive and feel fulfilled. Doing something helpful for others—like showing love, kindness and connection—benefits both the giver and receiver.

According to a recent study, small acts of kindness that are intended to benefit victims after a tragedy also appear to strengthen the resilience and well-being of the person performing the act. This research paper, “Encouraging Flourishing Following Tragedy: The Role of Civic Engagement in Well-Being and Resilience,” was published in the New Zealand Journal of Psychology.

So, how can we provide these basic human needs during this period of social distancing? Can we do more with our digital devices to foster and encourage kindness and meaningful connection?

Being kind is an innate ability or trait we all possess. Being kind comes from the heart. It requires us to open ourselves and show our softer, authentic side.

Making a connection means taking risks and being vulnerable in a world where pride, performance and “never letting them see you sweat” are sometimes more highly valued.

Is there room for this type of vulnerability? In short, yes!

Brené Brown, an author and professor who studies human connection, discusses this in her TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability. Since 2010, more than 22 million people have viewed this video, setting a TED Talk record.

Obviously, this concept of vulnerability resonates with many, many of us.

A doctor in a New Jersey hospital recently wrote the following after having to perform an emergency lifesaving intervention on a colleague with the coronavirus:

“I intubated my colleague today. … As scared as I was, I knew that I owed it to my colleague to be calm, focused, and collected. … It’s ok to show emotion. In doing so, we show that we care, we grieve, we love. In the end, our love and service to one another may very well be the things that get us through this.”

These powerful words speak for themselves.

When you share a personal experience or story, you make yourself vulnerable to the listener. Stories can both reveal our flaws, mistakes and challenges. And they can illustrate what makes us fully human and our best selves.

Our stories show that despite the distance between us, we are all human. Much like this public health crisis, our stories provide us the opportunity to see that despite our socio-economic status, the color of our skin, where we live, what generation we represent, we are all in this together.

Many of us are drawn to the transformative power of vulnerability that sharing personal stories creates. This can help us connect with each other in ways not otherwise possible. It can help us experience a sense of happiness despite our social distancing.

A friend recently shared that working remotely is giving her new and surprising perspectives, like she sincerely misses the company of her challenging and difficult co-workers and is looking forward to seeing them again. As I listened, the tone in her voice was kind, thoughtful and inspiring.

This human connection improves the social bonds that encourage us to cooperate, rather than compete. My grandmother understood that such cooperation was critical for farmers living off the land because those who were kind and worked cooperatively with each other survived better than those who struggled in conflict and resentment.

As an EAP account manager and consultant, I regularly talk with employees about improving inter-personal relationships. They often ask for ideas on how to better connect with others.

It’s very hard, if not impossible, to change certain behaviors. In the end, the only thing we can change is ourselves and how we respond.

So, then, if we want something to change, we must be the first to act. We need to give to receive. So, make that phone call. Send that text. Invite someone new to join that virtual meeting.

As a counselor and clinical social worker during this time of high stress, uncertainty and overwhelm, I believe that most of us will not require a therapist, but all us will need therapy.

So, shower each other with kindness. It’s good medicine.