Kindness means different things to different people and it can expressed in many varying ways. Kindness is an intentional action and often causes a positive chain reaction. At its basic level, it is being friendly, considerate and generous. You can see it in action when someone is gentle, warm, affectionate, empathetic or concerned about someone else. To be kind isn’t a weakness. Often it takes courage and strength to be kind. Especially when doing so continuously is difficult, unappreciated or unreciprocated.
Why be Kind?
If it’s not always easy to be kind, then why be kind? Is there any real value of teaching kids how to be kind and exercising it when we can? Surprisingly, aside from the positive ripple effect kindness can have around us, there are a number of more non-altruistic reasons to practice it.
The Science of Kindness
Kindness draws people towards each other. It strengthens networks, cements friendships and creates more meaningful relationships. All good reasons to intentionally practice it in your everyday life. Being kind is an intentional action which is contagious and more often than not, kindness begets kindness. Aside from this, there are also health incentives.
5 Non-Altruistic Reasons to be Kind
- Kindness has been shown to increase self esteem
- Kind actions can decrease stress levels by getting you to focus outwardly, giving you a break from your own challenges
- Being kind can boost serotonin and dopamine so help improve your mood
- Acts of kindness can cause oxytocin to be released which is known as a cardioprotective hormone that reduces blood pressure and helps decrease inflammation
- It releases endorphins in the brain which have been shown to decrease pain levels
Kindness begins with Me
Kindness can be exercised towards others as well as yourself. It may sound strange, but being kind to yourself is as important as being kind to those around you. Perhaps even more so given how kindness can impact your self-esteem, mood and stress levels.
5 Ways to be Kind to Yourself
- Censorship – If you wouldn’t talk to someone else like that, then why use that tone or choice of words for yourself? All it does is make you feel bad
- Kudos to You – When you’ve done something well, pause, smile and take a moment to congratulate yourself on your accomplishment
- Let Go – Next time you’ll know better, but this time you learnt a lesson. Rather than hold it over yourself and keep feeling bad, forgive yourself as you note the lesson learnt
- Play it Inward – Think of something that you’d do for someone else but generally skip doing for yourself and do it just for you
- Enjoy a Standing Date – Schedule in some time that’s just for you with you; doing something that makes you happy. Like going for a stroll, pulling out your sketch pad or sitting somewhere you enjoy for a while
Getting on the ARK (Acts of Random Kindness)
Being kind to someone else can be planned or random. Either way it’s usually appreciated and gives someone cause to smile or be relieved. Often being kind doesn’t cost us anything except a bit of time and effort
5 Easy Ways to be Kind to Others
- Smile – A friendly face is always appreciated. It takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 to scowl
- Say Thanks – Taking a moment to say thank you, even if it is in their job description, is an encouragement and acknowledges someone
- Compliment – An honest and unexpected compliment goes a long way in helping give someone a happy boost
- Help – It may not be your mess, but helping someone clean-up is usually a relief for them
- Give it Away – If you don’t need it or know that someone would enjoy it more than you, then why not give it to them?
Kindness is a Strength not a Weakness
Kindness is not being nice. It goes deeper than “nice” and because of this it isn’t always easy or convenient to do. Kindness is intentional. Therefore, rather than being an “automatic reaction”, doing something kind for someone else can require a concerted effort and active decision-making process to carry out. This is not easy and may need you to exercise some grit and determination along the way.
What kindness is not, is being treated like a door-mat or allowing people to take advantage of you. While most people are appreciative, sometimes you will need to balance wisdom with being kind.
What to do when:
1. Kindness is Mistaken for Weakness
The first thing to do is to set boundaries. For yourself and for others. Decide on how much you’re prepared to give or share and after that say “No”. Think about what you value and what is acceptable to you. If someone’s behaviour violates your values or what you deem acceptable, say “No” and don’t budge on that stance. When someone crosses a line, kind people stand up for themselves and others.
2. Kindness is Taken for Granted
As being kind is a decision it means that you independently have decided to do something and haven’t been coerced or guilted into it. This also means that telling your friend it’s okay when they have done something you don’t appreciate or taken something without asking isn’t an act of kindness. It’s being taken for granted and avoiding a tough conversation. Similarly, agreeing to do something for someone who wouldn’t do it themselves or doesn’t have the authority to ask you to do something isn’t an act of kindness.
3. Kindness is Not Reciprocated
Kindness may not always be reciprocated, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop being kind to someone. It’s worth persisting in being kind to someone when you can see it is part of a learning process and not something they are familiar with. Children don’t always understand it therefore continually showing them what genuine kindness is, is part of teaching them and helping them grow in a positive direction.
You can gain more insight into the many facets of the human experience by studying psychology. SACAP offers a range of courses that can pave the way for a career in psychology, while developing skills that will prove valuable in a variety of other career paths. For more information, enquire now.
1. Is kindness a weakness?
No, kindness is an intentional action which can take grit and determination to carry out; it is therefore a strength and not a weakness.
2. What are 5 ways to be kind?
- Express Gratitude
- Assist others
- Give things away
3. What are 5 reasons to be kind?
- Improves self-esteem
- Decreases stress levels
- Boosts serotonin and dopamine levels
- Can increase oxytocin
- Releases endorphins