THE POWER OF KINDNESS: 5 AMAZING BENEFITS AND WHY IT MATTERS
Kindness is a very powerful skill to have. It helps us relate to other people, have more positive relationships, share better health, live a happier life, and create a ripple effect that will last for generations.
“If you don’t need to prove that you are right or that someone else’s behavior should be punished, you can better see your way to achieving harmony in any given situation.” – Catherine Ingram
Kindness brings us closer. Kindness is a strengthener of communities and groups. We are stronger and better when we are together. And we become closer the kinder we are to one another.
We are just like a rope: several strings and threads intertwined making this thick, strong, unbreakable rope. It is much easier to break the individual strings or threads than it is to break a rope.
It seems that not a day goes by without upsetting news lately. And although we can’t always control what’s going on out there, we most definitely can control what goes on in here: our minds and hearts.
Last month, I was sitting outside with a couple of friends, having wine, talking about our kids, politics, the pandemic, fears, dreams, future plans, and sharing a warm summer afternoon. It was quite lovely. When another friend walks in, already upset, and becomes immediately more aggravated that we too were talking about politics.
It did not take any time at all for an argument to start and for someone to say that they were leaving. I quickly said: “Please don’t. I really want you to stay. I want to hear your opinion, your perspective. I want to know what and how you think. Trust me, we can talk about this.”
Everyone looked at me in surprise. Maybe it is because people are so overly contentious nowadays that the mere thought of having a conversation with someone who disagrees with their views is just inconceivable. I don’t know, all I know is that I wanted to talk to my friend.
As the conversation moved forward, you could see not only relief but gratitude for that small kind gesture of listening – so uncommon nowadays I must say. I truly did want to hear their opinion. And guess what? We ended up talking for over an hour. I learned so much, and so did they. And the best part was, we learned that our beliefs, values and dreams for the future are more alike than different.
It goes without saying that this year has brought us more negative surprises than we could have ever imagined: a pandemic, a mysterious deadly disease, isolation and solitude, unemployment, a crashing global economy, social unrest, endless natural disasters, distance learning, and an election that is making bigger waves than Pipeline in the winter.
We are all exhausted: emotionally, mentally, physically, and should I say again emotionally? And if we can control ourselves, why add more drama to our pain?
Anger fuels anger. Resentment fuels resentment. Discord fuels discord. Snarky, mean comments, complaints, shouting, yelling, honking in traffic, pushing and shoving, name-calling… Ughhhh, I’m already exhausted. They all feed on each other. And the more we use them, the worse we feel.
But here is the thing, kindness can change the energy and evolution of the interaction.
The nature and nurture of kindness
We, human beings, have an unusual predisposition to kindness, empathy, and generosity, especially towards strangers. Look at how good you feel when you see neighbors helping each other after natural disasters, or strangers helping each other in a crisis, or when you watch youtube videos of people being kind to people. All the good, warm, and fuzzy feelings, right?
That’s because kindness is part of our nature and the way to be happy and healthy is to be kind, to self and to others. We are social beings and we are happiest when we are being altruistic and helping one another. We can learn to nurture kindness and increase our happiness and wellbeing.
Kindness can positively change our brains. Being kind boosts the production of serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.
Oxytocin sometimes called “the love hormone,” oxytocin plays a role in forming social bonds and trusting other people.
Dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain that can give us a feeling of euphoria. This feel-good brain chemical is credited with causing what’s known as a “helper’s high.”
Being kind can also increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Endorphins are our body’s natural pain killer and happiness and feel good boosters.
The benefits of cultivating kindness
Here are 5 science-backed benefits of kindness to our lives:
1. Kindness boosts our Happiness.
A study by The Journal of Social Psychology found that being kind to ourselves or to anyone else — even a stranger — or actively observing kindness around us boosts individuals’ happiness. When we do something good our brain releases dopamine, the feel-good hormone, giving us the “helper’s high” feeling.
2. Kindness reduces anxiety.
A study by the University of British Columbia found that acts of kindness decrease people’s anxiety because it increases people’s positive moods such as joy, interest, and alertness and it also increases social bonding and relationship satisfaction, making people more connected to one another.
3. Kindness is good for the heart.
In The Little Book of Kindness, Dr. David Hamilton explains that kindness improves our cardiovascular system. When we experience kindness, our brain releases oxytocin. “Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels thus reducing blood pressure.” Nitric oxide is an integral part of heart health, says Dr. Hamilton.
4. Kindness prevents illnesses
Inflammation in the body is the number one cause of illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, chronic pain, obesity, and migraines. Oxytocin reduces inflammation on a cellular level, thus reducing inflammation overall. Little acts of kindness or even the intentional thought of being kind can trigger the release of oxytocin.
5. Kindness creates ripple effects
Studies show that acts of kindness are contagious and spread out by 3 degrees of separation. That means that when you help a person, that person then helps other people, and these people, in turn, help other people.
Who doesn’t remember the huge Starbucks pay it forward chain over the holidays some years ago? Over 1,500 people were involved in the chain.
When we do something good, we feel good about doing it, feel good about ourselves, and good about others. It’s a win-win-win situation.
To benefit from the amazing long-lasting benefits of kindness, we must develop a habit. Daily would be ideal.
When we do something good, we feel good about doing it, feel good about ourselves and good about others.
Important factors when practicing kindness
1. Start by being kind to yourself.
Have you noticed how kinder you are to others and how much better your day flows when you have taken care of yourself too? In this pressure-filled world, it is imperative that we show kindness to ourselves and tend to our needs in order to be helpful to others and our businesses.
– Take time to breathe and drink water, regularly.
– Exercise daily.
– Talk on the phone with the people that make you feel good, regularly.
– Sleep well and eat a well-balanced diet, regularly.
– Unplug, regularly.
2. Lead with compassion and empathy.
“Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
Before jumping to conclusions and assumptions as to why people behave the way they do, try to understand them. Ask them questions. Show that you care. Sometimes, being quiet is the biggest act of kindness we can show.
When we are compassionate we recognize our shared human condition. Compassion and empathy lead to acts of kindness, ripple effects, and bonding.
3. Be intentional: choose kindness
We make choices every day: what to eat, what to wear, where to go, etc. And although we can’t control other people’s actions, we can control how we respond to them. We can’t force people to be kind, but we can choose to be kind, no matter what. It’s up to each one of us. Choose kindness.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
4. Practice makes progress.
We become kinder with practice. Even the smallest actions can cause big results. Do one small kind thing each day to someone, then notice how often you find opportunities to show kindness and how much easier your kindness flows. I offer you over 80 ideas to practice kindness daily.
5. Become an influencer
Just as a bully of a boss can foster a culture of bullying in a company or an angry person can foster angry comments in a community, so can kindness from one person foster kindness on others. Be an influencer, be the starter, be the one who helps people turn to one another in small and big ways. Help people shower generosity, compassion, empathy, and kindness all around.
Implementing simple acts of kindness, daily
I’m going to share here some suggestions of acts of kindness you can start implementing this week. At the end of this post, I link to a PDF file with over 80 acts of kindness ideas. Don’t miss it!
Acts of kindness to self:
– Go to bed an hour early to catch up on some sleep.
– Eat healthy meals.
– Buy yourself fresh flowers.
– Go for a walk.
– Take a bath.
– Take a nap.
– Write a positive note to you and leave it in your jeans pocket.
Acts of kindness for others:
– Check-in on an older adult who doesn’t get out much.
– Call a friend to check in and let the person know you’re thinking of him or her.
– Put money in someone else’s parking meter that’s about to expire.
– Buy pet food or treats and drop them off at the animal shelter.
– Plant a tree.
– Donate pajamas to foster kids
– Visit kids at a children’s hospital
– Leave coins around playgrounds for children to find.
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”- Maya Angelou
We always remember the kind people in our lives. Who is that person you remember the most in your life? Why do you remember them the most? Were they kind?
And how do you want to be remembered by?
Our actions now can, not only offer us a life of happiness and good health, but it can create ripple effects for years to come.
I’ve created a document with over 80 ideas of how to implement acts of kindness to yourself and others. DOWNLOAD IT FOR FREE HERE.
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With love and gratitude,
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Focusing on what matters most, let’s improve our communication and transform our interactions one conversation at a time.
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