Kindness is a concept that we know and love, but one that we don't often sit back and reflect on. How are we demonstrating kindness in our everyday life? What impact is it having? How can we develop greater compassion?
When I think about the times that I have demonstrated kindness in my life, it becomes very clear that the impact has been just as beneficial "“ if not more "“ for me as the giver as it was for the receiver.
Kindness is in our nature, but sometimes in the business and craziness of everyday life, it is forced to take a back seat as we struggle to find time to eat lunch let alone check-in on a friend or volunteer at a local shelter. Beyond just being an admirable character strength, kindness is incredibly good for our well-being, and if we can go out of our way to find an organic cafe or make time to go to the gym, then I'm sure we can find time to be kind. And let's be honest"¦ it really doesn't take much time! Compliment a stranger, smile at the bus driver, carry an elderly lady's groceries when she's crossing the road. Kindness comes in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes the biggest impact can come from the smallest gestures.
How do you demonstrate kindness in your everyday life? Truly think about it. Just like brushing our teeth or driving a car, kindness becomes a habit that we can nurture and develop. And as you do, you might start to notice these five things happen:
You feel happier
Kindness stimulates the production of serotonin in our brains (the same chemical targeted by anti-depressants) and helps us calm down and feel happy. The best part is that this is true for the giver, the receiver and everyone who witnesses it. Beyond serotonin, kindness also releases endorphins which is the same chemical released when we eat a delicious block of chocolate. So next time you're reaching for a snickers, do something kind instead ðŸ˜‰
You feel healthier
Kindness also releases the hormone oxytocin (also know as the "cuddle hormone" which plays a significant role in the cardiovascular system. Oxytocin causes the release of nitric oxide in blood vessels which makes them dilate which reduces blood pressure. Oxytocin also makes you feel calm, generous, trusting and strengthen's the immune system!
You becomes more attractive
A new study by Yan Zhang and colleagues assigned participants to three groups and had them rate 60 photographs of unfamiliar female faces, all with neutral expressions. There was no significant difference in rating among the three groups. After two weeks, the participants rated the same pictures again, but this time one group of participants were given positive personality descriptors of the people in the photographs, another group was given negative descriptors, and the third was given no information at all. The group that had been given the positive personality descriptors rated the photographs as more attractive and those that had been given negative personality descriptors gave the lowest ratings to the photographs highlighting that kindness really does make us more attractive.
You age slower
Aging is caused by many things, but two main culprits are free radicals and inflammation. Well, you know that oxytocin hormone we were just talking about? Well it also reduces inflammation and levels of free radicals, thus slowing down two of the key drivers of aging.
You begin to see kindness all around you
Kindness is not only healthy, it's contagious! More contagious than the flu! As earlier mentioned, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin in our brains and helps us calm down and feel happy. The best part is that this is true for the giver, the receiver and everyone who witnesses it. Just think about it"¦ how do you feel when you see someone pick up a bill a stranger dropped, or help an elderly person onto the bus. It warms your heart right? Makes you want to go out there and be kind too! Or when someone does something kind for you? Makes you want to reciprocate, true? The more we demonstrate kindness, the more others show kindness too"¦. and while we can't guarantee the whole world will get kinder over night, we feel pretty confident that at least your world certainly will!
So then"¦ what are you waiting for? And if you're not sure how to be kind, here are 102 awesome ideas to spread kindness. One of my personal favorite's is this awesome movement by moreloveletters which enables you to write and send love letters to strangers who are lonely or going through difficulty. Check out their site and send a love letter today.
They say that a single ripple of kindness can go onto create a large wave"¦ let's go and make some ripples!