Elizabeth Bernstein wrote a wonderful story in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal: Why Being Kind Helps You, Too—Especially Now.
Bernstein notes that there is research which links kindness to a wealth of physical and emotional benefits. Plus, it’s an excellent coping skill for the Covid-19 era.
Here are some of the highlights from the story:
- Studies show that when people are kind, they have lower levels of stress hormones and their fight-or-flight response calms down. They’re less depressed, less lonely, and happier. They have better cardiovascular health and live longer. They may be physically stronger. They’re more popular. And a soon-to-be-published study found that they may even be considered better looking.
- Being kind is an excellent coping skill for the Covid-19 era. In a time of isolation, kindness fosters connection to others. It helps provide purpose and meaning to our life, allowing us to put our values into practice. And it diminishes our negative thoughts.
- Psychologists call kindness altruism and talk of two types: reciprocal (you help someone because it will benefit you in some way—like giving money to get a tax break) and pure (you have no expectation of reward). Humans evolved to do both.
- Some people are kinder than others—specifically, people born with the personality trait of empathy. Yet, nature accounts for just half of our propensity to be kind. The rest is nurture—we learn it from our parents, our family, and our community. And we can also teach ourselves.
- When we’re kind, a part of the reward system called the nucleus accumbens activates—our brain responds the same way it would if we ate a piece of chocolate cake. In addition, when we see the response of the recipient of our kindness—when the person thanks us or smiles back—our brain releases oxytocin, the feel-good bonding hormone.
- People who believed that kindness is good for them showed a greater increase in positive emotions, satisfaction with life, and feelings of connection with others—as well as a greater decrease in negative emotions—than those who did not.
- Start by being kind to yourself.
- Little acts of kindness add up.
- There is a difference between being kind and being nice—kindness is genuinely helping or caring about someone; niceness is being polite. (I always wondered what the difference was…)
- Research suggests that simply remembering past acts of kindness can also increase your well-being.
That’s a lot of bang for the kindness buck.
Kindness has been the attribute I’ve tried to place the highest priority on ever since my wife told me years ago, when our children were small, that what she wanted most for our three boys was for them to be kind. I’m happy to say that my wife got what she wanted…
*image from Guinness Care