It has often been thought of as a selfless act, but now research is also showing that altruism may benefit the giver as much as the receiver.
In fact, the reach of kindness is so large that even witnessing kindness is good for you.
Kindness begins when you initiate an action for the good of another without expecting anything in return. This is the source of its magic. The energy you use in carrying out the kind act affects everyone involved in a positive way.
Kindness can accompany every action from praise to criticism. It’s not only about what you do, but how you do it. When an action comes from a place of love, you experience kindness. Kindness can be conveyed in many ways:
- Providing a gentle touch
- Giving a compliment
- Helping a stranger
- Actively listening to a coworker
- Giving an unexpected gift
- Sharing a memory
- Baking for someone in need
- Making a donation to a charity
- Sponsoring a child
- Volunteering your time
The Law of Giving and Receiving pertains as much to giving kind thoughts, words, and actions as it does to giving objects. Kindness doesn’t need to be a grand gesture; in fact, sometimes a simple act can be even more effective.
Here are five reasons you should practice kindness:
1. You’ll Get to Feel the “Helper’s High”
In his book, The Healing Power of Doing Good, Allan Luks coined the term ”helper’s high.” It is now commonly used in the field of psychology to describe the feeling of goodwill experienced after doing something nice for someone.
It is the result of an increase of dopamine—the happiness chemical produced by our brain after being kind. It might begin in the brain, but if you focus on the feeling in your heart center, you will experience it more deeply.
2. You’ll Look and Feel Happier
According to research, prosocial spending—spending money on someone else where there is no direct benefit for you—causes you to experience greater happiness. If you feel happier, chances are you’ll look happier, too.
3. You'll Reduce Anxiety
Performing acts of kindness can actually reduce social anxiety. Researchers assigned people with high levels of social anxiety to do kind acts for other people at least six times a week. They discovered that socially anxious people were able to calm their minds by focusing on being kind to others.
4. Your Kindness Is Contagious
In addition to the giver and receiver, an act of kindness also benefits the witness of the act. If you see an act of kindness, you are more likely to “pay it forward,” triggering more kind acts. For inspiration, watch the movie Pay It Forward.
In the film, a young boy decides that if he can do three good deeds for someone and they, in turn, can do the same, and so forth, positive change can occur. This type of upward spiral of positive energy is exactly the type of magic that kindness inspires.
The best part is, kindness can be taught—it is a skill that can be learned and honed with dedication and practice. Learning kindness can actually increase peer-acceptance and boost emotional well-being. There are many programs that can help you teach kids kindness and compassion at a young age. Here are two favorites:
- Random Acts of Kindness: A curriculum designed for educators to use in the classroom.
- Compassion-It’s Free Anti-Bullying Online Program: A pro-compassion approach to anti-bullying among youth.
You can also get creative with your kids at home and in your classroom. In her TED talk on kindness, Orla Wabha—a middle school teacher who wanted to make a difference—used random act of kindness cards that were handed out to students who would complete the act and pass it on to another student.
In the words of Lao Tzu, “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” There is no doubt that kindness matters in this world. If every human on the planet were to prioritize kindness, we would enjoy a lot more peace on the planet.