- Showing up kindly for others benefits both parties.
- Kindness has the power to boost satisfaction, happiness, and physical and mental well-being.
- Each of us has the capacity to show up kindly and make a difference in the world of another.
Kindness is about showing up in the world with compassion and acting for the greater good of all. While being nice is about being polite, pleasant, and agreeable and doing what we think we should, kindness goes a step beyond.
Kind humans know that life is hard, messy, and complex. Yet they understand that people are doing their best with the tools, resources, and experience they carry. Charles Glassman captured this by saying, “Kindness begins with the understanding that we all struggle.”
Many people view kindness as a weakness, but it's quite the opposite. It is a sign of strength. It is moving from "me" to "we," seeing the bigger picture, and loaning someone your strength and support. Supporting someone by doing whatever you can, wherever you are, with whatever you have is a sign of who you are—a kind human.
Kindness is doing the things that may go without acknowledgment and thanks. Authentic and intentional kindness doesn’t expect anything in return. We can practice kindness for kindness’ sake, not for the personal gain or the approval of others.
Kindness is a universal language that can bring people together regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, status, and identity. The good news is that it’s completely free too! I don’t think the saying “kindness makes the world go ‘round” came about without reason.
Benefits of Kindness
Most of us will have heard that "doing good is good for you" or "it’s better to give than to receive." It may be a surprise to learn that the research genuinely supports this. When we show up for others kindly, the benefits go both ways. Practicing kindness for the sake of kindness is one of the greatest gifts we can give to others and ourselves.
Research shows that being kind boosts the production of the feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine), which give feelings of satisfaction and well-being, and activate the pleasure and reward areas in the brain of the givers and receivers. Endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller, can also be released and contribute to a "helper’s high." Kindness also fosters our sense of belonging and helps us build and strengthen our relationships (Hamilton, 2017).
Research shows that performing acts of kindness and helping others improves the happiness of the helper (Curry et al., 2018; Hamilton, 2017). A study by Rowland and Curry (2019) found that people who performed kindness activities for seven days experienced greater happiness. The increase in happiness was true whether the social tie was a friend, family member, stranger, or themselves. As you might expect, the more kind activities one does, the greater the boost in happiness. Even just observing acts of kindness had positive effects on one’s happiness.
In his book, The Five Side Effects of Kindness, David Hamilton discusses how we experience the effects of kindness throughout our entire nervous system. He suggests that kindness is good for the heart because the warm feelings we get help to generate oxytocin, which can reduce our blood pressure and stress hormone, cortisol. He also supports the idea that kindness is contagious and how acting kindly can create a ripple effect and inspire others to do the same.
Ways to Practice Kindness
Here are some ways you can practice kindness:
- Be kind to yourself. In my last post, I talked about how we could all use a gentle reminder about being a little kinder to ourselves. For many of us, showing up kindly starts with repairing the relationship we have with ourselves. I provided some restorative and practical ideas for how we can start to show up kindly for ourselves. When we are kinder with ourselves, we are kinder to others.
- Practice the kindergarten basics. Manners, turn-taking, including others, and comforting that friend who fell and scraped their knee. A kind environment is the compound of many small, kind acts.
- Show gratitude. When we feel grateful, we need to share this with others. Recognize and bring attention to what uplifts you. Tell someone they are doing a great job. End your work week by emailing someone who helped you out that week. Text or call a loved one to tell them they make a difference in your life.
- Listen to understand, not respond or problem-solve. So often, when others are talking, we think about how we will reply or what solutions we will provide. The truth is that being present, and listening, is a form of showing the kindness that can make another feel heard, understood, and truly felt. Next time you ask someone how they are, hold space and really listen to what they have to say.
Being kind is about showing up as your true self and inviting others to come as they are, too. It is meeting yourself and others with compassion and understanding in the present moment. Each of us can be why someone believes there are good people in this world.
So, kindness might not make the world go 'round (we have momentum and gravity to thank for that), but kindness does certainly make the world a better place.
Think about the power that a kind gesture, a kind hand, a kind word, or a listening ear can have on someone in a moment when they feel like their world is crumbling. Think about the way that it can make an already-good day that much better. Now think about the positive impact on the giver’s physical and mental health. The power of kindness is remarkable.
We may never know just how big of an impact our small acts of kindness have on someone else. But we know that kind humans doing kind things are exactly what this unwell world needs more of.
Although it may not be your first time hearing this one, I will leave you with this final ask:
“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” —Unknown
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Curry, O. S., Rowland, L. A., Van Lissa, C. J., Zlotowitz, S., McAlaney, J., & Whitehouse, H. (2018). Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, 320-329. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2018.02.014
Hamilton, D. (2017). The five side effects of kindness: This book will make you feel better, be happier & live longer. Hay House UK.
Rowland, L., & Curry, O. S. (2019). A range of kindness activities boost happiness. The Journal of Social Psychology, 159(3), 340-343. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.2018.1469461