Although kindness is encouraged by every major religion and is recognized as a value in many cultures, sometimes it’s reeeally hard to be kind. We all know it. In fact, at some points in our life, it feels easier to be unkind – especially when we’re not in a great place and we feel like the world is working against us. If our self-esteem is a bit shaky, or if we want to be perceived as strong by others, then sometimes we act unkindly towards people.
But – underneath – we are all vulnerable. As Plato once said, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” If we think about it rationally, we’d probably understand that horrible people do horrible things because they’re hurting. Sometimes a person can’t afford to acknowledge how unkind they’re being because deep down, they already feel terrible about themselves.
Remember, though, that what goes around comes around! Research has shown that being kind to others increases our own levels of happiness as well as theirs. What’s more, it has a knock-on effect – kindness is contagious, so it makes a bigger impact on our surroundings than we might think.
So, let’s swot up on kindness and see how we can be kind to ourselves and be kind to others…
What Is An Act Of Kindness?
An act of kindness is a gesture of goodwill towards someone or something. Random acts of kindness can be performed anywhere, at any time.
It can be as simple as a smiling at the cashier in the corner store, giving up your seat for the old lady on the bus, or buying a sandwich for the hungry, homeless man. It’s a way of connecting, if only for a short moment, with those people we pass in our daily lives.
It doesn’t have to cost anything, either; what’s important is that it’s an act of expressing genuine care for another person. In fact, there’s no limit to the ways in which we can be kind to others – all we need to do is pay attention to those around us and start seeing opportunities to help!
But, Why Should I Act Kindly Towards Others?
Well, if you’re not already sold on the fact that it’s just nice to be nice, then you might be swayed by this lot…
Many of the world’s religions claim that if we act kindly towards others, we are investing in some sort of future salvation, like Heaven. But, there are other ways of looking at why we should act kindly. The ancient Greeks, for example, viewed being kind as rational, emphasizing the positive effects of kindness on societies; not just beneficial for the salvation of the soul in the afterlife but in this life, too!
Why? Well, because scientific research that says that humans are hard-wired for love and compassion. Our communities flourish when we’re kind to each other! We see others more positively and empathize with them, we gain trust through connection, and – when we strengthen our connections with the community this way – we feel safe. We’ll most likely get support in return when we need it; not necessarily in a like-for-like kind of way, but by building a wider support network.
A recent study, for example showed an anonymous person who donated a kidney set off a ripple-effect where others did the same, until 30 people received a new kidney because of that one act of kindness!
What’s more, when we support others, we increase the dopamine levels in our brains, giving us a kind of high. Emotional warmth also produces oxytocin, which reduces blood pressure and the free radicals associated with aging… Cheaper (and more relaxing) than the expensive face cream you’ve been buying!
Oh, and as if those weren’t good enough reasons for you – guess what? Kindness makes people want to be around us. One of the most common responses to kindness is gratitude – and that means people appreciating what we’ve done for them and seeking out our company!
Okay, I’m Convinced. So How Can I Try To Be More Kind?
- Do something kind for yourself.
Do one kind thing for yourself each day which doesn’t involve buying something. Congratulate yourself on your achievements, or have a long, relaxing soak in the bath!
- Do one kind thing for someone else.
Each day, try to do something kind for another person. Open the door for someone, give somebody a genuine compliment, or give some money to the homeless guy… It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it helps somebody else!
- Resist any urges to be unkind.
If you’re on the verge of being unkind to someone, stop and reflect: What are you hoping to achieve from this? And if someone is unkind to you, don’t take it personally. Remember – they’re probably hurting.
Sure, kindness takes courage. Especially when we’re not feeling 100%. But let’s fight back against unkindness and be the best versions of ourselves that we possibly can be. Be kind to everyone, always. It might not make the world go around, but it certainly makes it a lot more joyful and comfortable to live in. It sparks openness. Catalysts creative flow. Incites union and cohesion. And, what’s more, your kindness will come back to you one way or another!
- Your kindness will probably come back to you in one way or another.
- Kindness is rational and makes sense for societies.
- Being kind often takes courage, like most good things do! Don’t let that put you off.
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