The gift of kindness has positive effects for both giver and receiver. In November, we talked about the power of gratitude and for December, we will focus on how kindness and altruism are equally beneficial. Just as November is the month of gratitude, and many of us express what we are grateful for, similarly, December is the month of giving and many look for ways to give back.
HOW IS KINDNESS BENEFICAL?
You can express kindness in many ways. Random acts of kindness, giving back to your community, and volunteering are all ways of doing so. Kindness, or altruism – the desire to do good – has been shown to produce a “helper’s high.” This high reduces stress and studies have shown that it increases immunity, all because you are feeling love and empathy. This is because when you express kindness your brain releases oxytocin – the “feel good” hormone –, which lowers blood pressure and protects your heart. Other positive side effects include slowing signs of ageing and making you happier.
In children, studies have shown infants who are nurtured have higher levels of oxytocin compared to children who were orphaned and not placed into stable, nurturing homes until later. Practicing kindness and creating nurturing strong bonds with children early is a resiliency factor, which helps to counteract trauma and toxic stress. If children learn kindness early on, they also experience better outcomes in their life including longevity, a decrease in depression, and good fortune and well-being are increased.
Doing nice things for people is linked to decreasing social anxieties, improving relationship satisfaction, and making you feel more positive. Kindness is truly powerful and is even contagious. One act can have a ripple effect that spreads outwards to others.
HOW CAN I BEGIN PRACTICING KINDNESS?
Like gratitude, kindness is a muscle that in order to make a habit of it, you must learn to practice. Here are some simple things you and your child can do to practice kindness:
- Hold the door open for someone
- Genuinely compliment someone
- If you drive, let people in front of you when they are trying to get into your lane
- Pay for a friend’s lunch or coffee
- Volunteer for a charitable organization or cause you believe in
- Say “thank you” often
- Don’t complain for a few days
- Send a card to someone who is going through a difficult time
- Take cookies or doughnuts to your neighborhood Fire Department and/or Police Station
- Forgive a debt that someone owes you
- Listen to people with interest when they speak to you
- When you receive exceptional service somewhere such as a restaurant or retailer, tell their manager about your wonderful experience
- Be kind to someone you dislike or don’t get along with
- If you are raking your leaves or mowing your lawn, go and do the same for your neighbor
- While out grocery shopping, offer to return the cart of someone elderly or who has their hands full
References include “The Science of Good Deeds” by Jeanie Lercher Davis; “18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation Today!” by Emma Seppälä, PhD; “The Biology of Kindness: How it Makes Us Happier and Heathier” by Maia Szalavitz; “How Random Acts of Kindness can Benefit your Health” by Priya Advani; “Why Good Things Happen to Good People” by Dr. Stephen Post; “The Five Side Effects of Kindness” by Dr. David Hamilton; “Ten Powerful (and Easy) Ways to be Kind” by Inspire More; and “The Road to Resilience” by the American Psychological Association.