The driver who cuts you off, the person in front of you who lets the door slam in your face instead of holding it open for you, your family member who leaves dirty dishes in the sink (again!), or the coworker who is eating tuna for what seems like the hundredth time—life is full of tiny annoyances sparked by those around us. It’s easy to respond with frustration to these things. After all, you think, don’t they realize how annoying they’re being? Shouldn’t they be a little more conscientious to the people around them? While that may be true, these little everyday interactions are an opportunity not only to be the better person but also to reap the research-backed benefits of kindness. Read on for just a few of the benefits of being kind.
1) Kindness is Contagious
According to Dartmouth College, everyone who witnesses an act of kindness benefits from it and research shows that witnesses experience an improved mood and are more likely to perform acts of kindness towards others (also known as “paying it forward”). That means that when you’re kind to someone else, you’re actually spreading goodness to everyone around you. Kindness has a multiplying effect and therefore makes a simple act of holding the door for someone much more powerful than you initially might think.
2) Kindness is the Gift that Keeps On Giving
In addition to being contagious in the moment, being kind also has long-term effects. Researchers found that individuals who had given a gift experienced happiness when remembering their past act of kindness. They were more likely to be even more generous in the future. The relationship between a kind act, happiness, and future acts of kindness is called a “positive feedback loop” by researchers. Simply put, doing just one act of kindness inspires another and another and another all while building a sense of happiness.
3) Kindness is Healthy
Practicing kindness is shown to have a wealth of health-related benefits, according to Dartmouth College. For example, performing an act of kindness activates the reward center in your brain (also called the “helper’s high”) making you feel better even though you are the one doing the good deed and not receiving it (if that’s not a case for taking the higher road, then I don’t know what is!). Being kind also releases serotonin in your brain which is also linked to boosting your mood and calming negative feelings. The hormone oxytocin, which lowers your heart rate and increases self-esteem, is also released. And, people who volunteer regularly tend to be healthier and tend to live longer than those who don’t. Researchers found that the effect of volunteering was stronger even than exercising four times a week when it comes to increased lifespan. It has also been found to reduce the overall effects of stress.
4) Kindness is Not Just About Others
We often think of practicing kindness as extending help and care to others but being kind to yourself is just as important. Far from being selfish, being kind to yourself means extending the same love and compassion you show to others to yourself. Also known as self-care, extending kindness towards yourself means recognizing your own worth as a person and taking care of yourself in a way that reflects that. This could mean not mentally beating yourself up after making a mistake, simply getting enough sleep, standing up for yourself at work or in relationships, or treating yourself to a break in the middle of a busy day. When you’re kind to yourself, you’re a better version of yourself to others. It’s a win-win situation.
Clearly, being kind towards comes with many benefits but being kind sometimes seems like it requires superhuman effort in the moment. “What do you mean, I’m supposed to wish the rude grocery store clerk a good day?” you think. But yes, by taking a deep breath and choosing to respond with kindness—whether it’s to yourself or someone else—you are giving yourself the opportunity to experience all of the benefits that kindness brings. Life invites us multiple times a day to choose to respond to kindness. Don’t save being kind for the big moments in life. Embrace those small, everyday opportunities and bask in the benefits of being kind.