Kindness can create a virtuous cycle that promotes lasting happiness and altruism. Kindness is contagious. Once you start doing nice things for others, you might not want to stop. This month we’re focusing on kindness toward ourselves and others to close out the year on a positive note, and to make kindness a healthy habit to carry into the new year.
What if we told you kindness makes you happy?
You don’t have to take our word for it. Two studies suggest spending money on others makes us happy, even happier than spending on ourselves!1 Happiness is a central desire in our lives. Gratitude is an important human strength that contributes to happiness. One study showed that grateful individuals were especially appreciative of the contribution of others to their happiness.
“Compared with unhappy people, happy people report close and satisfying relationships and feel more gratitude in their lives. Whereas gratitude results when people receive kindness from other people, kindness entails enacting kind behavior toward other people.”2
The same study found that happy people reported higher levels of the three kindness components:
- The motivation to be kind to others
- The recognition of kindness in others, and
- The enactment of kind behavior in one’s daily life.
“Kind people experience more happiness and have happier memories. Simply by counting acts of kindness for one week, people appear to have become happier and more grateful. Happy people are more kind in the first place and they can become even happier, kinder and more grateful following a simple intervention.”2
- The Love Hormone
- Blood Pressure3
Both kindness and gratitude are an important human strength that influences our wellbeing. It’s important to practice these habits frequently, starting with one random act of kindness per week. Then work your way up to one or more random acts of kindness per day. Practice kindness and compassion toward yourself every day. You can’t fill anyone else’s cup unless yours is full. The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnesses the act, improving their mood and making them more likely to extend kindness to others. Build up your compassion muscle by being kind to others and offer care and help.
Tips to Promote Kindness
- Try seeing your world view as open to improvement by the evidence and experience of others.
- Remember to put yourself in other people’s shoes. You never know what others are going through.
- The only person who can affect your mood and thoughts are you! Be introspective and discover your own thoughts and fears that inhibit you from being the kindest possible version of yourself.
- Write a list of preconceived notions you have about interactions with others, and then break them.
- Often, we can mask our insecurities by judging and projecting negative thoughts on others. Try to catch yourself thinking a negative thought, and say “STOP” to redirect yourself to a positive thought.
- Realize that you have to first help yourself before you can help others.
- Mistakes are okay. Track what you consider to be mistakes, and how you learn from them in your journal.
- Reflect on past experiences during the week, and how you made decisions every day.
- Choose being kind over being right and you’ll be right every time.
- Just about everything is smoother with a smile.
- Though being kind to our friends and loved ones may come easily, a true test of your kindness is attempting to resolve problems with people scorned or ones you’ve been scorned by in your past.
- Your words can influence those around you. Remember that the mouth should have three gatekeepers. Is it true? It is kind? And it is necessary?
Pay It Forward
When someone does a good deed for you, instead of paying them back, “pay it forward” by doing a good deed for someone else. Below are a few ways you can pay it forward.
- Give a genuine compliment to someone.
- Perform random acts of kindness (Hold doors open for people, volunteer, share food, etc.)
- Become a mentor or tutor to a person in need. We all have skills, so share yours with those who need it!
- Leave post-it notes with encouraging messages in random places (in library books, on car door/windshields, in public places, etc.).
- Write a positive Yelp! or Google Review for a business you like.
- Offer to stay late and help clean up at your friend’s party.
- Visit family members you haven’t seen in a while.
- When driving, let someone merge into your lane.
- Drive a friend to the airport.
- Do two things to protect and preserve the environment for generations to come.
To cultivate positive emotions, try a Loving-Kindness Meditation. Try this free meditation from UCLA Health website (available in English and Spanish).
- Visit: http://marc.ucla.edu/mindful-meditations
- To listen to the meditation, click “Play” button next to Loving Kindness Meditation (9 minutes)
- To download the meditation, right click on “Play” button and then click “Save Link As”
- Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness_makes_you_happy_and_happiness_makes_you_kind
- U.S. National Library of Medicine (NIH): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1820947/
- Random Acts of Kindness Foundation: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/the-science-of-kindness