Everyone wants some kindness in their lives. Few of us actively choose to be kind and immerse ourselves in being and doing so.
Kindness matters more than ever as we dwell in a world where decency, integrity, patience and respect for others seem to have taken a back seat in our discourse and how we conduct our lives.
Kindness offers us so much — individually and collectively. Looking for an antidote to stress, try kindness. Want to improve your wellbeing and physical health, try kindness. Want to lengthen your lifespan, try kindness.
A meta-analysis of 201 studies with 198,213 participants concluded that there is a direct association between better physical and mental health and prosocial behaviour, that is compassionate or kind acts to you and me. The researchers also found that the younger you are, the greater the benefits for your wellbeing than physical health. For older folks, the added value is for physical health.
Kindness is contagious. The first study from the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute showed that even observing an act of kindness makes us feel better about our world, and more predisposed to perform an act of kindness ourselves. Imagine kindness going viral!
Unsurprisingly, kindness takes different forms and has different categories including the formal, like a weekly volunteer shift at a local charity or community allotment and the informal, which includes random acts of kindness. Informal helping rather than formal helping has been shown to have more wellbeing benefits. It doesn’t mean you give up your regular shift at the food bank, it just means in terms of wellbeing you get more bangs for your bucks by being more spontaneous with your compassion.
Let’s delve deeper into five fascinating facets of spontaneous kindness and compassionate people.
1. Kindness listens.
When I say listen, kind people really hear you. When you mention to a kind person that you have exams, a sports competition or a family member is unwell though waiting for the results, they store that information. They then check in with you on how things went.
Kind people don’t ignore your messages, ghost or troll on social media!
Conversations for kind people go beyond getting their viewpoints across. Chats are about tuning in to the people they are engaging with and sensing how they can add value.
2. Kindness gives spontaneously and selflessly.
A kind person may send you an unexpectedly gift, extend an invitation to an event that aligns with your interests, forward you a quote or message, ideas, an encouraging spoken word, poem, give you a compliment or smile (yes, the emojis count too).
Kind people give to brighten up your day. They give because it is at the core of who they are — whether they have little or a lot.
Their giving is not because they want something back. However, I’m sure they appreciate it when you say ‘thank you’. Take a closer look at a kind person, you’ll probably notice that they are grateful people too!
3. Kindness keeps its word.
When a kind person says ‘I’ll see you at the hospital at 5pm’ they show up. When they promise to be back at their weekly Food Bank shift, they are. This is not a one-off but a repeated pattern of keeping promises.
You will rarely be left rolling your eyes when a kind person says ‘I will call you later’. Their colleagues, friends, classmates, team mates, partners, family members know they will. Kind people understand the pain and anxiety that can be caused by not keeping one’s words.
Kind people are about uplifting and reassuring others so they do what they say they are going to do.
4. Kindness reaches out when others choose not to.
When kind people see others on the side lines, they reach out. It could be someone new or a bit different at the workplace, school, fringes of friendship groups or neighbourhood.
When someone puts up that post that bombs and alienates them, many may be quick to hit the unfollow button. A kind person is likely to reserve judgement and make contact.
A kind person always values others, helping them feel included, wanted and loved.
5. Kind people are kind to themselves.
Kind people make time for themselves and know to look after themselves so they can look out for others.
It begins in thoughts. Researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Oxford found that taking time to have kind thoughts about ourselves and loved ones imparts psychological and physical benefits.
Whilst helping others feel good, kind people also feel good in themselves.
Whether old or young, kindness is good for us and those around us. With a myriad of ways to show it, kindness matters and can transform us and our society.
Let’s speak the language of kindness. Everyone gets it. Even better, don’t just act it, be it.
First published on Medium in December 2020.