The Power of Kindness

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

49 thoughts on “The Power of Kindness

  1. I’ve known a few kind people. The dilemma they seem to face is, how to be kind without others taking advantage. When I see how they’re so often used as a welcome mat, I feel kind of glad I’m such a mean person.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. kindness, niceness, gratitude – we all know that they are good for us and others, yet so many people fail to behave accordingly. And unfortunately, sometimes I am guilty of not behaving properly, so it is good to read these reminders…

      Like

  2. I’m in 100% agreement with Bernstein’s piece. When we’re kind and make someone else’s day better, it makes us feel better about ourselves. My mom was the most nurturing soul, and my brothers and I benefitted so much. She didn’t tell us to be kind; she showed us to be kind.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post Jim… I completely agree with the list especially when you want to be kind from the bottom of your heart, not because you’re looking for some sort of reward. Maybe I’m the latter because I’m far from popular 😭 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks, Jessica. Yes, the WSJ reporter did a wonderful job bringing all the research together into an informative story. I think either type of kindness is good, but it does sound like there are extra benefits when it is from the bottom of your heart. I am far from popular as well 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your children have grown into the kind and caring individuals they are not because of anything you said to them, but because of everything you did. You and your wife lived the example of kindness and they have seen those benefits with their own eyes. That is how the greatest lessons are learned. You have even taught an old goat like me a thing or two on the way, and I thank you for that. Great post and timely!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you for your kind words, Brad. Most of the credit goes to my wife for being such a great roe model of kindness. I’ve learned from her. And I’m grateful for the great job the WSJ reporter did putting this story together.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think this is my favorite post you have had so far! It’s ironic because I posted my BeeKind decal to my blog yesterday. Or did that inspire you? LOL! I miss doing the pay-it-forward acts (random acts of kindness) because I just won’t leave my house unless I have to now. I used to pay for lunch for service members who showed up in uniform if I was eating there. I’d make eye contact with the owner and she would send them on their way once they got their food. I’d pay her when I was done eating. Those oxytocin really come out and it’s just good karma for everyone! Isn’t oxytocin an interesting word since Oxycotin makes the pain go away after a surgery? Clever letter reversal. There is another idea for a blog. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe it was in your nightmare the other night and you don’t remember that part. LOL! I believe in good karma and military personnel deserve our respect. It was simple way to thank them without being noticed or making a big deal of it. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  6. My favorite part: “ Research suggests that simply remembering past acts of kindness can also increase your well-being.” I love this and would like to make it a daily practice. Thank you for the great information on kindness!
    🙏 🕊 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m note sure if you can say kindness and giving are the same thing (I like to think they are pretty similiar) but I try to live a life giving without expecting anything in return – I know some people say “oh be careful, some people will take advantage of that”, but I find it quite rewarding knowing a small thing I have done has helped someone out.

    Liked by 1 person

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