Does being kind come to us naturally? or is it something we do often as a result of anothers’ act of kindness, or a reminder from someone, maybe an organisation to act; a gentle nudge.
So much of what we value is preserved by kindness. In theory we all value kindness, acting kindly, or receiving kindness makes us feel good. We experience a sense of reward in parts of our brain in the same way as we do when we eat yummy food. Kindness is contagious, it can have a ripple effect and just hearing about others putting themselves out to be kind and considerate can encourage us to join in. In a study on social norms by Robert Cialdini, a notice in a hotel room suggesting that the majority of guests now re-use their towels to be kind to the planet, saw a huge increase in guests following practice. Research conducted in Vancouver by psychologist Elizabeth Dunn around spending or keeping money was conducted. It instructed participants when given a sum of money to either spend it on themselves or others. At the end of the day discussion showed that some had bought small items for themselves, coffee, lunch, earrings, and others had bought for family members, friends of homeless. The people who spent it on others, felt significantly happier than those who had spent it on themselves.
There seems to be a lack of visibility of the many acts of kindness that happen daily around us. Perhaps we walk around with our busy lives not enabling us to see it happen, and the news is all to quick to take time to bring fear, anger, and anxiety. However, it’s happening – the acts of human kindness are constant and with a little dig around the kindness can be seen and appreciated. The Good News Network is an amazing website/publication sharing happy, kind stories around the globe, and well worth signing up to their daily dose of kindness newsletter. And a you tube clip from the BBC on the effects of kindness demonstrate the positive effects bringing kindness into our lives more mindfully can have.
The oxford dictionary definition states; ‘the quality of being friendly generous and considerate’ - interesting the ‘and’ so one can be friendly and generous but need to also be considerate to fully meet the kindness criteria. Perhaps we have to experience all three to get the true pleasure of kindness.
Self-care – being kind to yourself? Now there’s a thought! Is kindness all about others? How kind are we to ourselves? All too many of us potentially act with great kindness to others and forget ourselves, surely that’s not nice or kind! Difficulties with self-compassion could be painful, perhaps having to confront memories, or recognising potentially perceived weaknesses, but not experiencing self-compassion can leave us feeling negative and having low self-esteem. The art of self-compassion and kindness can have tremendous positive outcomes for our lives, enabling us to deal with stress better, be more resilient and enjoy life more, responding to ourselves with kindness warmth and understanding.
A kind person knows that they will indeed need kindness themselves, maybe not now, but at some point. They know how often they have been in the wrong and have learnt to ‘hold mind’ and to recognise self-righteousness, how often they have over-reacted with their possible anxious childhood mind.
So what stops us being kind? I know for me it can be that little bit of nervousness that questions how my kindness may be received. Could it be patronising, demeaning, unwanted?. Do I therefore worry about the rejection, feeling a fool for offering? Research done by Radio 4 BBC suggested that a large majority of people feel the same way. It also identified that the people most likely to offer kindness were the extravert, confident group, who like to connect and go out of their way to be be with and around others, perhaps getting their comfort and happiness from the people connection, and their extraversion and fondness for new experience enabling them to be kind more often without fear of rejection. Whatever the reason, it is clear through many research programmes that the rewards are great. We enjoy both giving and receiving kindness and the benefits to our health. Studies show, for instance, that volunteering correlates with a 24% lower risk of early death
What’s more, volunteers have a lower risk of high blood glucose, and a lower risk of the inflammation levels connected to heart disease. They also spend 38% fewer nights in hospitals than people who shy from involvement in charities.
To be kind is to perhaps remember how to comfort, and the different types of comfort different people need. The kind person perhaps makes time and effort to alight the right comfort to the right person and respect circumstance and situation. Sometimes being kind requires a slight sacrifice of your own time and resources, but it brings about a sense of self-worth.
In summary kindness is what propels us forward both as individuals and society to greatness an good. It is the best of human nature. Being kind to ourselves, being our best, performing acts of kindness for strangers, loved ones. A smile encourages another smile, kind action by kind action creating the world we want.