How (and Why) to Be Kinder
Discover the importance of kindness and learn new ways to show more kindness.
The act of being kind is often used as a synonym for being nice. While niceness implies a level of pleasurable or agreeable behavior toward someone else, kindness takes niceness a step further. Kindness can be defined as a genuine and sincere way of giving your time and intention to someone else through compassion, time, generosity, and care for the betterment of helping others (Binet & Passmore, 2019). Kindness can be shown in a variety of ways. Some ideas may include offering emotional support, giving time to someone or a cause, showing respect, encouraging another person, providing resources, or something as simple as just being there when someone needs you.
Research suggests that showing kindness not only makes the person we are being kind to feel good but helps our own well-being too. Below is a list of just a few benefits of kindness.
Increases Happiness. Kindness has been shown to increase subjective well-being and improve mood. The more kind we are, the more we tend to feel positive emotions (Otake et al., 2006).
Boosts social relationships. People that show kindness are more likely to develop genuine connections with others and feel content with their social networks (Otake et al., 2006).
Promotes oxytocin. Oxytocin, commonly referred to as the love hormone, is a hormone that can support positive self-esteem. It helps us feel more joy and can also improve heart health by reducing stress (Verona, Murphy, & Breslin, 2018).
Reduce depressive moods. Being kind to others can help you feel more self-confident and energetic, which can elevate your mood and help minimize feelings of depression (Carter, 2011).
Produces the “Helper’s High.” We’ve heard the term running high, but have you heard of a helper’s high? Researchers have shown that when we do good deeds for others, our brain’s pleasure and reward centers fire up. Being kind can create a rush of positive energy and uplift us, which is a phenomenon called “helper’s high” (Dossey, 2021).
While it may seem easier to be kind to the people we know, we also carry the ability to show kindness to someone new. Plus, kindness doesn’t always have to include dramatic gestures of care. Simply being polite, using a warm tone, giving a smile, or showing patience or gratitude to a stranger can be enough.
Picture yourself at the grocery store at 5:30 pm on a Friday. You’re ready to get home, change into comfortable clothes, have a bite to eat, and can’t wait to sit in front of the TV for movie night. Your grocery list is small, maybe just milk and eggs. But it seems like the entire population of New York City is in the same store as you and you begin to grow impatient with the long lines. Of course, this is a frustrating scenario, especially when you’re exhausted from a long week of work. While it can be easy to give in to our annoyance or discomfort with the situation, being patient, smiling at another waiting customer, or being understanding of the cashier when they apologize for the long lines can mean more to them than you think.
In another situation, let’s say you have a great friend who is dealing with some trouble at work, feeling overwhelmed with her home life, and hasn’t found the time to take care of herself. Your kindness can be something as simple as checking in on how her day is going, sending a warm message wishing her a good week, or being there to listen if she needs to vent about any frustrations or problems.
Let’s recap: kindness expands the more we share it, being kind to someone else can improve our own psychological and physical health, and no act of kindness is too small. Being kind is a simple but beneficial act that we may often overlook, so hopefully, this article served as a reminder that just a little bit of care and compassion can make a big difference.
Carter, C. (2011). Raising happiness: 10 simple steps for more joyful kids and happier parents. Ballantine Books.
Dossey, L. (2021). Generosity and kindness in our pandemic era. Paradigm, 19.
Otake, K., Shimai, S., Tanaka-Matsumi, J., Otsui, K., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2006). Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting kindnesses intervention. Journal of happiness studies, 7(3), 361-375.
Verona, E., Murphy, B., & Bresin, K. (2018). Oxytocin-related single-nucleotide polymorphisms, family environment, and psychopathic traits. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 9(6), 584.