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Kindness and Its Benefits

5 ways that sincere kindness can make our lives better.

Key points

  • Kindness is when an individual helps another person at their own expense.
  • Doing kind things makes you feel better.
  • Any kindness you give to others is also a gift to yourself.

No one has ever become poor from giving! —Anne Frank

Kindness (also known as altruism) is about putting other people's interests first. Being kind to other people can have multiple benefits. However, to gain these personal benefits, you need to be sincere.

1. Acting kindly makes us feel good. It feels wonderful to do something useful for someone. The “helper's high” is the uplifting feeling that we experience after doing an act of kindness to others. The “helper’s high” shows up in our brain’s reward system. The experience is like consuming a piece of chocolate cake or having a pleasant surprise. It feels so good that the brain motivates us to do them again and again. As the proverb goes, it’s better to give than to receive. It makes you feel like your life is valuable.

2. Kindness is contagious. Kind acts can have a ripple effect—for example, giving a genuine compliment to a family member, friend, or colleague. When people receive kindness, they get an emotional boost and are more likely to help someone else. Just hearing that someone else has behaved kindly can motivate us to do the same.

3. Kindness makes you more attractive. Kind individuals may even be considered better-looking. In other words, being a kind person could make people perceive you as more attractive. We are biologically wired to be drawn to people who are compassionate.

4. Kindness has good effects in the workplace. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that kind people can be winners. Business leaders are increasingly placing kindness at the center of their strategies for success. They have found that taking a more compassionate approach to business, politics, and sports management brings positive results. Kindness can result in a more positive work environment and better employee performance. Employees who have kind bosses are more likely to stay at their company. Positive behavior can cascade through the workplace.

 RODNAE Productions/Pexels
Source: RODNAE Productions/Pexels

5. Kindness has health benefits. Kindness not only feels good, but it can also boost the giver’s well-being. Studies show that when people are kind, they have lower levels of stress hormones and their fight-or-flight response calms down. For instance, when we see the person thank us or smile back, our brain releases oxytocin, the feel-good bonding hormone, which can increase trust and reduce fear and anxiety. Research also shows that giving directly to a person rather than contributing online seems to better unlock these emotional rewards. For example, taking a friend out to dinner rather than sending them a meal offers an opportunity for social connectedness that’s particularly beneficial.

Kindness, however, isn’t always an automatic reflex. Nature accounts for just 50 percent of our tendency to be kind. It may come naturally to some. People born with the personality trait of empathy are kinder than others. We learn kindness from our parents, our family, and our community. We can also teach ourselves. It is a skill we can strengthen, much as we would build muscle.

More from Shahram Heshmat Ph.D.
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