Kindness means a state of behavior marked by generosity, helpfulness, and consideration without expecting anything in return. It is a positive, healthy, and easy quality of being. Kindness is not always the same for everyone; its’ definition, although similar, is subjective.
Definition of Kindness
The word kindness is a worldwide concept everyone has experienced or embodied. Many people aspire to be kind in this world, all to better the lives of others. Kindness is a quality that demonstrates empathy, friendliness, and generosity, all while being selfless. People who are kind do not expect anything in return.
Kindness can be known as many other concepts as well. Some synonyms include humanity, patience, thoughtfulness, benevolence, compassion, or solicitude. These kindness synonyms demonstrate that kindness is all around, in all shapes and sizes.
Human kindness and the importance of acting this way have been reinforced over and over again from a very young age. Humans learn about sharing with others, caring for others and always considering others’ thoughts and feelings. A certain flaw within educating the young would be a lack of teaching about being kind to oneself.
Although important, being kind to others is not the only way to demonstrate kindness. Being kind to oneself is just as important. Being kind to oneself through self-care, positive self-talk, and being generally nice is vital for positive mental health and self-esteem.
It can be very easy to talk down on oneself and have negative thoughts regarding things like personality, looks, life, etc. These negative thoughts and words can cause a chain reaction, cause an individual to spiral and eventually lead to a vicious cycle of negativity. It should be taught and reinforced that how an individual speaks to themselves is just as important as how they speak to others.
Being kind to oneself can be difficult; human beings spend every waking minute of every day with themselves, leaving plenty of time to pick apart their own flaws. One way to easily practice self-kindness is by practicing gratitude, and speaking positively.
When speaking negatively to oneself, it is useful to ask, “is this any way to speak to a friend, family member, or neighbor?”. The answer is often no; no one should be talking to themselves in a rude, negative or condescending way. By asking this question, an individual’s own words and thoughts towards themselves are put into greater perspective.
The Psychology of Kindness
Studies have proven that humans, even as babies, are inherently kind and respond positively to kindness. From the beginning of life, humans are not self-sufficient; they cannot walk on their own, feed themselves or survive without the help of others. Evolution, in some ways, is possible with the help of kindness.
Physically, humans respond to kindness and depend on kind relationships with others. A parent’s kind act of feeding their child and providing for their child promotes survival and positively affects newborns and children.
It has even been shown that kindness through physical touch triggers a certain part of the nervous system positively. A kind and loving hug from someone has been shown to activate the cerebral cortex and make one feel safe, relaxed, calm, and at peace. Kindness through touch puts humans in the opposite of the fight-or-flight state. This has an overall positive effect on physical and mental wellbeing.
Society has been proven to be happier and has improved economic factors and life satisfaction for its members when kindness is applied. Trust and social support are healthy for a society, improve its functionality, and give its members greater hope.
The Benefits of Kindness
Kindness is something that has both physical and mental effects on humans. Physically, being kind to others as well as being kind to oneself, can increase self-esteem, empathy and compassion. It can also boost mood, increasing happiness and positivity.
Research has shown that even a small act of kindness can decrease blood pressure and cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone; physical stress can be decreased by increasing acts of kindness. People who are kind have been known to live longer, healthier and more positive lives.
Mentally, kindness has been shown to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, happiness hormones. Being kind every day gives you a feeling of satisfaction and overall good feelings. This effect can, in turn, create a positive cycle; by being more kind on a regular basis, happiness increases and encourages kindness in return.
Like negative thoughts and feelings have a domino effect, kindness and good feelings follow the same pattern. Everyday acts of kindness create a positive chain reaction of happy thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Being kind comes with practice
Although inherent to humans, being kind can be difficult every day. With busy lives and a million things on to-do lists, committing an act of kindness can be the last thing to be thinking about.
Like many other things in life, practicing can help an individual perfect the ability to be kind. By practicing and repeating kindness daily, is can become a habit and reap its positive effects.
One way to practice kindness is to write down every morning one to show kindness, that can be applied throughout the day. This can be good deeds or words of kindness. No matter how big or small the act, kindness will have positive effects.
Daily practice of kindness can include flashing a smile at a stranger on the street, having sincerity when speaking to others, and complimenting peers and loved ones.
Being kind to oneself takes even more practice; inward negative thoughts and feelings often go unnoticed. Making a conscious effort to be aware of these thoughts and reframe them to be positive takes practice. Reframing thoughts towards oneself to be kind can be a challenge but ultimately very rewarding in the end.
Random Act of Kindness
Many people think that kindness requires a large amount of effort. Thankfully, this is not the case. Kindness is that it comes in all shapes and sizes. No act is too big or too small; they will all inspire a positive feeling and ultimately are a great reward.
There are endless ways to show kindness. Great kindness can be shown by donating to homeless shelters and volunteering time to various organizations. These are ways to accomplish kindness and make a difference in the world.
Many acts of kindness are done in a “pay it forward” way. Someone paying for the order of the person behind them at a local coffee shop often encourages that person to do the same for the strangers around them.
A small act of kindness is just as, if not more important, than big displays of kindness. The world thrives on little things humans do to create an environment of kindness and positivity.
Smiling at strangers, holding the door open for someone, letting a car merge into the lane during rush hour. All of these, although little, have huge impacts on people and humanity. They create a positive loop of kindness and generate positivity in all circumstances.
Frequently asked questions
How Can One Understand Kindness Better?
Kindness is shown to kids from a young age; kids learn how to share with others, speak kind words to those around them, and when to apologize. Many research articles go into even greater detail on kindness and can help you learn about it. The resources linked below are a great place to start, one being loving-kindness meditation.
Why Is Kindness An Important Value?
Kindness is important because it creates positivity, respect, and other great qualities. Its’ positive effects are things that can benefit humans long-term and help remove negativity from everyday life. It positively affects others, and kindness towards oneself greatly increases personal fulfillment and overall well-being. Performing acts of kindness can give you a sense of positivity and increased well-being.
How Do To Practice Self-Kindness?
Being self-kind starts with recognizing negative thoughts and reframing these to be positive is a starting point. From a practical standpoint, individuals can benefit from writing down things they love about themselves, things they are grateful for, acts of kindness that can be performed each day, and plans for demonstrating kindness to both the world and oneself.
Kindness 101: What Is Kindness and How Do You Teach It?
The Science, Theory, and Practice of Kindness
Compassion and the science of kindness: Harvard Davis Lecture 2015
The art of kindness - Mayo Clinic Health System