A dear friend of mine passed away recently.
Margaret McCathie was one of the kindest people I have ever known in my life. In some ways she was like a mentor to me, although she probably wouldn’t have thought of our friendship in that way.
I always looked up to her because I was inspired by the quality of person she was, how she never had a wrong word to say about anyone, how she would drop everything to help someone in need.
She was always so kind to me. She helped me to believe in myself, even at times when I struggled. She always saw the best in me. She saw the best in everyone.
She was always giving of herself.
And she was almost always smiling.
With Margaret, I think the two things definitely went together.
Copious amounts of research shows that kindness and happiness go together. One of my favourite studies was when over 600 people were given a small sum of money at the start of a day and told to spend it that day.
Except, half were asked to spend it on themselves and the other half were asked to spend it on others.
At the end of the day, when they were all assessed, those who had spent the money on others were the happiest.
Why is this so? I’ve often wondered.
I could tell you the science bit, but I think there’s something deeper going on.
I think, deep within us, we know that helping others is the right thing to do. It’s a spiritual thing for many of us. Margaret definitely had that kind of knowing. When we help others, our actions align with something deep within us that says, “Yes!” and that part of us bubbles up and fills our heart and mind at that time.
It’s a deep, wise, all-loving part of us. Some call it the Higher Self, others, the Soul. It’s that part of us that knows, even amid the difficult and confusing moments of our lives, that all is well.
It is calm. It is peaceful.
And it rises up in us when we are kind, when we love, when we show compassion, when we point our attention towards the needs of others. It rises up because we align with it.
It’s like opening a valve. And the infinity of peace flows through it.
The science bit is that kindness, because of how it feels, fiddles around with our brain and body chemistry and produces feel-good substances like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin.
But this is because of how it feels. My question has been, why does it feel that way? And I have come to believe that it is because kindness aligns us with who we are at the deepest level.
I’ve had this conversation with Margaret on several occasions over the years. Margaret was never bothered about the science, although she appreciated that about me, that it’s how I have been able to reach people and convey important subjects and principles.
Margaret just knew.
I’ve often questioned why I’m drawn to science. I’d rather just know, like Margaret did. When I reflect, I’ve wondered if I’m trying to convince myself of things. Maybe. Maybe not.
To be honest, I think using science for me is part of what I feel as a sense of purpose. I’ve always had a sense that my role is to teach, to communicate principles that help people get along, to feel joy, for us to live in harmony with smiles on our faces.
Science helps me to communicate some helpful principles for achieving these things in a language that many people understand.
A hostile person once asked me for advice.
“Be kind” is what I told him.
“Why,” he demanded.
“Why not?” That’s what I’d liked to have said. Margaret would have said that.
I said, “because it will soften your blood vessels and improve blood flow to your heart.”
Hostility is associated with coronary artery calcification, a hardening of arteries. Kindness is associated with a healthy heart. “It’s not rocket science,” I said. “It’s your health and all you have to do here is choose what sort of person you want to be.”
He understood it when I put it that way. He was a technical sort of man.
I’ve come to learn that science helps me explain healthy principles.
Kindness is contagious. That’s another principle I’ve explained several times and Margaret loved for me to explain the science for people. The ‘R-number’ for kindness lies somewhere between 3 and 5. It depends on a number of factors.
Research shows that kindness causes a domino effect that knocks down at least three dominos – or ‘spreads to three degrees of separation’ as us scientists would say.
It means that if you use an R-number of 5, a single act of kindness will typically impact 125 people. That’s 5 x 5 x 5.
I like to believe that explaining these sorts of things helps people live healthier lives and be nicer to one another.
Laughter is very healthy. I learned that from Margaret and then I did some research to uncover some science that she could put on a flyer she was getting made up.
Margaret was a trained laughter therapist. She studied with Dr Patch Adams and toured China, Tibet, and Russia with him, visiting nursing homes and children’s hospitals dressed as clowns and making people laugh.
She made me laugh a lot.
Once, we were running a laughter and joy workshop together for a large insurance company. Margaret arrived in larger-than-life brightly coloured clothing. In the lift, we met two company employees dressed in grey suits. Margaret immediately began to interact with them.
They both stared at the ground, but she didn’t give up. By the time we got to the upper floor we were travelling to, they had loosened their ties, they were smiling, and their cheeks were flushed. She always had that kind of effect on people.
Laughter makes us feel good. It floods the brain and body with happy chemicals. It supports mental health, helps counteract stress and reduce anxiety and depression. It also supports the immune system and improves blood flow to the heart. There’s a lot of good reasons why we should find a way to laugh every day.
Margaret laughed every single time I met her. And she was infectious because she made me laugh too. She is one of the few people I’ve ever known where I can honestly say that I always came away feeling better after we met.
So I bid Margaret a fond farewell. She will be missed but never, ever forgotten.
There are some people who will always stay with us, even when they are no longer here, and clearly Margaret was that person in your life. My Mum and my dear friend Wendy are two of those people in my own life. Happy memories!
Thank you for this, David. I remember meeting Margaret and very much enjoying her company!
I met Margaret at one of your events David, I was on a cancer journey and very ill and frightened, she held my hand throughout. She oozed love and kindness……rest in peace beautiful soul xx
What a wonderful tribute… good for you and good for Margaret to have enjoyed each other’s company so much!
Thanks so much, Pippa. 🙂
I remember Margaret so well. You and I and Margaret ran the day From Cancer to Wellness at the Chi Yoga Centre in Glasgow. I met Margaret on several occasions and have talked about her to many. She will be missed – but is no doubt making the angels laugh in heaven. Blessings to her family – and to you. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your kind words, Stan. I remember that day, ‘From Cancer to Wellness’ very well. Margaret was always so focused on doing things that would help other people. Haha, yes, I believe she probably is making angels laugh in heaven. 🙂
Thanks so much. I always enjoy your blogs, reading and learning about the science of happiness. I want to acknowledge you for writing this tribute. Though I didn’t know her, I feel like I did. She was blessed to have you as her friend and colleague.
Thank you David you made me smile as I recalled our dear friend.
Margaret was a wonderful caring woman. I first met her when I asked her to deliver a workshop for Stirling council. She invited me for soup and our friendship grew.
I still laugh at the suits response to the session
The men who were uncomfortable in their own skin would not come in. Margaret persevered and got most to join in but I have wondered why laughter is challenging for some.
Margaret supported me when I left HR and started my own business. She showed me tremendous kindness when my son died.
She was first on my list to help with my happiness events and was my first choice to pass my Happy Hero medal to. Given to me for the first International Day of Happiness, she didn’t want to take it, but she relented when she found out she had to pass it on too.
Margaret often talked about writing her memoir, in fact she was sure her life would make a great movie. There were certainly lots of stories.
She will be missed by many but she created so many ripples in the pond of life that her presence will be felt for a long time.
I know she was very fond and proud of you David.
Keep sharing your message the world needs it. ❤️
Aw, David, what a sad day to hear of Margaret’s passing. How heartbreaking.
I first met Margaret on your ‘I heart me’ initial training programme, and was immediately drawn to her and befriended her. She had a massive impact on everyone and truly blessed our lives. She taught us all so much and was so giving and generous with her time and with her love and laughter. She touched thousands of lives, lifting others and bringing them joy. I will never forger her. Thank you for your tribute to Margaret. Bless you David. Love from the Black Hills.
Thank you for this lovely tribute to my wonderful mum. She was one of life’s special gems. It’s lovely to hear how she touched others. She’ll be forever in our hearts.
She certainly was one of life’s gems, Louise. I’m so sorry that she’s passed away, but she will always live on in the hearts and minds of all those whose lives she touched with her huge heart!
Beautiful David! Margaret was a dear friend of mine in stirling too and a wonderful friend of my family. I will miss her a lot to. She truly was and will always be a beautiful soul. I’ll share this. Good wishes from sydney Australia today ❤️
P.s I also have a heartfelt thing she said about me once on my website. I’ll always keep it!
Thank you for sharing. An amazing person and friend. Thinking of you and Margaret’s family.
That is so beautiful David. such a wonderful, kind and heartfelt tribute to what seems to be a fabulous lady. The world is one angel less……