Be Happier With Kindness
Have you ever wondered why you feel a warm glow of joy when you do something nice for someone? Scientists have been asking this same question and it turns out there is growing evidence that our brains and bodies really do respond positively to giving and receiving acts of kindness. Being generous, considerate, thoughtful and giving really does improve your happiness and wellbeing for you and the recipient.
GIVING FEELS GOOD
Giving feels good because acts of kindness have been shown to release endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin in the brain. These chemicals help to lift our mood and make us more positive and optimistic. In addition, studies have shown we also experience the following:
- An increase in energy
- Lowered blood pressure with improved heart health
- Fewer aches and pains
- Increased life span
- Pleasure or ‘helpers high’
- Decrease in stress levels
The link between kindness and happiness suggests that there is a virtuous circle in that happiness makes us likely to give more and giving more makes us happier. This two way relationship is wonderful for building a better relationship with yourself, others, work colleagues and your community.
Increase Happiness With Positive Psychology
Positive Psychology looks at ways to increase happiness and create a life of flourishing and one way of doing this is by incorporating a few simple acts of kindness into our daily and weekly lives, volunteering, charitable giving and providing any kind of emotional, financial or physical support to others. Studies have found that adults who volunteer on a regular basis, for example once a week, had better mental and emotional health than those that volunteered once a year. In a 2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness in 136 Countries, it was found that people who were altruistic were happiest overall.
While kindness has been shown to increase happiness, our motivating factor for being kind and giving to others will impact this positive emotion in yourself and the recipient. If your sole motivation is to give in order to receive something back this may negate your happiness because both you and the recipient may disappoint each other with your responses. However, If you choose to give because it:
- Provides value to the recipient
- Aligns with what is important to you and your values
- Helps you to establish a sense of connection with other people
Then you are much more likely to experience a positive impact on your wellbeing. If your acts of kindness are not making you happy, then consider the motivation behind your giving. Similarly if you are exhausted from giving too much, also ask why you are giving so much, what your motivation is and how can you also redirect this kindness towards yourself. Self-kindness is also important for your wellbeing and for building compassion.
MAKING THE TIME FOR SOMEONE ELSE
Many of us live extremely busy lives and are juggling work, parenting, daily chores, exercise, social lives and family demands so taking the time in our busy lives to be kind may seem like another task but it really isn’t. When you are super busy ask yourself what is the highest value you could contribute to someone at the lowest cost to you and you may soon find yourself performing many random acts of kindness throughout your day.
Acts of kindness can be as simple as:
- Offering to carry a heavy bag
- Giving up your seat on a crowded train
- An email networking introduction
- A grateful acknowledgement of a kind act
- A smile
- Helping someone with a small task
- Buying or making someone a cup of coffee or tea
- Opening the door for someone
- Asking someone about their children
- Making a five -minute phone call to tell your parents you love them
- Sending an “I’m thinking of you” message to someone
The Social Connections of Kindness
Building social connections through kindness is an important element for our psychological wellbeing and while we are practicing kindness, we are also creating meaning, achieving something good, engaging with others and building positive emotions. Building a reserve of positive emotions help us navigate our way through difficult times and is an important element for building resilience.
In fact, Kindness is contagious and even just witnessing an act of kindness can also increase good feelings and create positive neural connections in our brains. This positive ripple effect is what makes the Pay-it-Forward idea such a wonderful way to build kindness into your life and community.
It is as simple as handing the relay baton of kindness and good deeds to another who will then pass it on to someone else while building happier lives and spreading kindness throughout the world.
With so many positive benefits of giving, why not start incorporating random acts of kindness into your day to light up your life as well as the lives of others. Kindness is accessible to everyone and one act of kindness may just change your life and the life of another with positive consequences for a better future.
I look forward to hearing from you if you are interested in increasing happiness and kindness in your community or organisation.