Here’s Proof That Being Kind Is Good For You
There seems to be a whole lot of not-so-nice going on in the world at the moment, to put it mildly. And it’s not just political figures who are playing ugly. It seems we’re all a little preoccupied with our own small patch of existence – our compassion and empathy for others has been on the slide since the ‘90s.
All this doesn’t paint the jolliest picture of humanity. Which may account for the rising interest in good, old-fashioned kindness. There’s the World Kindness Movement and organisations like Random Acts of Kindness imploring us to be kinder, while Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram, announced on February 16 that the theme for Worldwide InstaMeet 15 (held over March 25-26, 2017) will be kindness.
While being kind in and of itself is a noble ambition, it turns out there are actual physical and mental benefits to the do-gooder, as well the obvious benefits for the do-goodee. Science says there’s evidence we evolved to be compassionate. So, if you consider yourself an evolved human being, kindness is the way to go.
Here are four reasons why it’s good for you (and for the world) to be kind.
#1 You’ll deal better with stress
A study by psychologists from Yale University found doing small acts of kindness can help you deal better with stress. Basically, the study found that by helping others, we build up a buffer of good feels around ourselves. This buffer helps to dampen the negative effects that stress can have on our wellbeing. It’s like putting on a kindness sumo suit – stress will have a tougher time getting through that thing.
And the emphasis is on the small – all it takes is holding a door open for someone. So, just be a decent human and good will come of it.
#2 You’ll feel all warm and fuzzy
It turns out doing something for another person will also make you feel better than doing something for yourself. This study found kindness-doers got a positive mood boost from doing good deeds for others, while people who focused on doing good for themselves did not.
In other words, the next time you feel like a little retail therapy might buck you up, think again. Try doing something nice for someone else and your mood (and your bank balance) will thank you.
#3 You’ll feel more optimistic
When it comes to hormones, Oxytocin (aka ‘the love hormone’) is definitely one you want to have around. And being kind helps to unleash this biological wonder in your body. Just one of Oxytocin’s many good bodily deeds is its boosting effect on optimism and self-esteem. Hold that elevator door for a latecomer and the world will look a little bit sunnier.
#4 It’s good for your health
Being kind not only does good things for your mental self; your physical self can share in the kindness pie as well. One study showed kindness can have positive benefits for blood pressure (being kind = lower blood pressure). Your immune system may also get a boost, with evidence meditating on being kind can affect the way your cells act, promoting a better immune response.
Kindness begets kindness
In the spirit of full disclosure, this area of science is still being explored. A recent review of the literature did suggest the benefits of kindness may just be on the small-to-medium end of the scale and pointed out a few issues with some of the studies (sample size among them).
But don’t let that stop you. Yet another study tells us people who witness the good acts of others are themselves inspired to do good. In short: kindness is contagious. So, whether or not it helps you a little or a lot, your acts of kindness will certainly help others. It’s one little way – to paraphrase Michelle Obama – to go high, when others may go low.
Go forth and be kind.
Kate is a Melbourne-based writer with a mild podcast obsession. She’s awful at social media, so don’t go looking for her there.