It's a sad commentary when people who are kind stand out from the norm. It makes me wonder if kindness is a lost virtue? But, did you know that kindness, or rather, being kind to others positively impacts your happiness and overall wellbeing?
The Kindness Effect
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an act of kindness, then you can likely recall the incident no matter how long ago it occurred. Whether it was a smile, a kind word, or someone going out of their way to help you, it created a bright spot in your day and made an impression that stuck with you.
The English Oxford Living Dictionaries defines kindness as:
The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate; a kind act.
The thing is that these acts of kindness don't just affect the person on the receiving end, they have a positive impact on the giver as well. It feels good when we demonstrate kindness to someone else. Research has demonstrated that when we give kindness to others, neurochemicals are released in the brain that influence our mood. These neurochemicals are serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin (a.k.a. The Happiness Trifecta).
The interesting thing is, these neurochemical superstars don't just improve mood. They also support better sleep, digestion, pain reduction, and other important factors that affect our overall health and wellbeing. In addition, these neurochemicals can counteract the negative effects of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol can cause weight gain, premature aging, irregular sleep, and decreased immunity, as well as lead to diabetes, hypertension, and many other life-threatening conditions.
It Starts with You
It’s incredibly difficult to reap the benefits of being kind to others when we’re being unkind to ourselves, such as berating ourselves for mistakes and neglecting to take care of our own needs. A great first step to beginning a ‘kindness practice,’ is to start by being kind to ourselves. Here are some helpful tips to get moving in the right direction.
● Make yourself a priority. Put your self-care at the top of the list instead of at the bottom. Taking care of everyone else and not taking care of yourself is a recipe for disaster. Stop saying you don’t have time. When you make the time to take care of yourself, you have that much more to give others.
● Show yourself grace. Missteps happen. Pay attention to your self-talk in those moments. Work on reframing the messages you say to yourself with encouraging words and questions that enable you to learn from those challenges and opportunities. “How have I grown from this experience?” “What can I take away from this moment that will help me when faced with something similar in the future?”
● Nourish your body, mind, and spirit. The phrase “you are what you eat” exists for a reason. When you put good nourishment into your body, you set yourself up for being able to get the most optimal performance from your body. Fuel your body with healthy food. Ensure that you are adequately hydrated and rested. Minimize your exposure to unproductive screen time.
● Recharge your batteries. Build activities into your daily routine that put energy back into your tank instead of depleting it. Take a walk. Get out into nature. Listen to music. Exercise. Spend time with loved ones. Identify what activities work best for you and make sure to include plenty of opportunities to partake in those activities throughout your day and week.
You will find that the better you treat yourself, the easier it is to treat others with kindness. The more kindness to give to others, the more you positively impact your happiness and wellbeing as well as those on the receiving end. You create a virtuous cycle that sends ripples of positivity out into the world. Follow the steps below to work on making kindness a part of your daily routine.
The Kindness Challenge
● Set a target for how many acts of kindness you will aim to accomplish each day.
● The more you do, the greater the impact on you and the world around you.
Acts of kindness can be powerful no matter how small they are. Below is a list of suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.
● Holding the door for someone.
● Helping someone carry something awkward or heavy.
● Giving up your seat to someone on the bus, train, etc.
● Telling someone they have a beautiful smile.
● Thanking someone for their service.
● Paying for someone's coffee or meal behind you in line.
● Leaving someone an unexpected tip to say thank you.
● Keep a record of the acts of kindness you perform and note how they make you feel.
● You have no idea the impact your kindness will have on someone else.
● You could be the bright spot in their day, and even change their life.
Now that you know how easy it is, perhaps you will begin to make kindness a regular part of your daily routine instead of a rare occurrence.
About Jennifer Mrozek Sukalo
Jennifer Mrozek Sukalo, is the CEO of SWAGGERU and has bylines in Fast Company, Livestrong, GirlTalk HQ and more. She is a sought after Transformational and Well Being Expert. Her first book in her Claim Your SWAGGER series with Morgan James was released on May 30, 2023.