Kindness is a lifestyle.
It’s a very good thing to make another person feel good. But being kind is also very good for you.
Research links kindness to a wealth of physical and emotional benefits. Studies show that when people are kind, they have lower levels of stress hormones and their fight-or-flight response calms down. They’re less depressed, less lonely and happier. They have better cardiovascular health and live longer. They’re more popular. And a recent study found that they may even be considered better looking (yes, its true, the permanent scowl on the face is not a good look).
Being kind is an excellent coping skill for the Covid-19 era. In a time of isolation, kindness fosters connection to others. It helps provide purpose and meaning to our life, allowing us to put our values into practice.
Practicing Kindness diminishes our negative thoughts. We only have a certain amount of focus and attention to give so if you are putting it on Kindness and acting with Kindness as you move through your day, you’ll find that you won’t have much space left over for negative thought patterns like anger, sadness, jealousy etc.
There are two general types of Kindness: reciprocal (you help someone because it will benefit you in some way, like being nice to get a new client) and pure (you have no expectation of reward).
Humans have evolved to do both. We’re not the biggest, strongest or fastest animal in the kingdom, so we needed to band together to survive. So the key to success is not the survival of the fittest, it’s survival of the friendliest.
Of course some people are kinder than others – specifically, people born with the personality trait of empathy. Yet, nature accounts for just half of our propensity to be kind. It can also be learned and practiced – kindness is a skill we can strengthen, much as we would build a muscle.
Kindness can even change your brain. When we’re kind, a part of the reward system called the nucleus accumbens activates our brain responds the same way it would if we ate a piece of chocolate cake.
In addition, when we see the response of the recipient of our kindness – when the person thanks us or smiles back, our brain releases oxytocin, the feel-good bonding hormone. This oxytocin boost makes the pleasure of the experience more lasting.
It feels so good that the brain craves more. It’s an upward spiral – your brain learns it’s rewarding, so it motivates you to do it again. It’s a good addiction (much better than chocolate cake).
How can you be kind even when you may not feel like it? Make it a habit. Practice. Take stock of how you behave day to day. Are you trusting and generous? Or defensive and hostile?
Want to Be Kinder? Here’s How.
Make it a habit. Look for opportunities to give a smile or pay a compliment. Practice being kind each time you interact with others.
Lower the bar. Kindness doesn’t have to be a big deal. Remember that little acts add up: a smile, a phone call to a lonely friend, letting someone have the parking space.
Be kind to yourself. Start by being kind to yourself – you’re going to burn out if you help everyone else and neglect your own needs.
Practice with the people closest to you. Don’t forget your family, friends, co-workers. Kindness is not just for strangers. When you’re kind to the people you live and work with, everyone will be in a better mood and have more positive emotions.
Recognize others’ kindnesses. Thank them privately or in front of others if appropriate. It’s easy to pay attention to people who are loud and mean. Elevate the voices of people who are quiet and caring. When we make kindness visible, we also make it contagious.
Look for role models. Emulate them.
Be a role model. Inspire others to be more kind.
Recall previous acts of kindness. Remembering past acts of kindness also increases your well-being and strengthens the Kindness muscle.
Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes other people don’t respond in kind. This doesn’t mean they didn’t appreciate your effort. Remind yourself of another time it went well. Keep going. What you practice you will get VERY good at!
Wishing everyone a beautiful day.