Years ago, I had to take the Bay Bridge into San Francisco every day for work. It was a drag. Traffic, traffic, traffic and many peoples’ nerves frayed. But one day something happened which totally changed my perspective. I finally got my turn at the toll booth and the toll taker waved me forward and told me that the car in front had paid for me. What?
I was totally surprised and amazed! A total stranger had paid for me and guess what happened?
The rest of my day was wonderful because I felt so blessed. A total stranger had expressed kindness for another total stranger. It taught me something so valuable that I even did the same in the years which followed.
Why is kindness important?
Well, it’s certainly about the good feeling of helping others but also the science of what it creates in the body. Yes, it’s beneficial for your health too.
1) Kindness Makes Us Feel Good
People who are kind without expecting any reward or even recognition are doing so because it is the right way to behave and how they wish others would act towards them. It is the essence of The Golden Rule.
But there is a reward. The good feeling we get causes the release of dopamine in the brain which results in a natural high. It even has a name: Helper’s High.
2) Kindness Helps Your Heart
Kindness helps you feel emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone oxytocin throughout the body.
Oxytocin is considered a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it by lowers blood pressure. Think of something kind you did for someone recently or years ago. It can be something simple. Just allow yourself to recreate that memory and feel it again. Even that sweet memory can produce oxytocin and increase a cardioprotective response.
3) Kindness Slows Aging
Of course, aging is inevitable but it is also true that some people age slower than others and stay healthy longer. There are many reasons for this but at the biochemical level the process is speeded up by free radicals and inflammation, which result from making unhealthy lifestyle choices.
But there is new research which shows, once again, that oxytocin (from emotional warmth) reduces free radicals and inflammation at the source – in the cardiovascular system and thus slows aging.Just another reason why kindness is good for the heart.
4) Kindness Strengthens Relationships
Of course, we like people who are kind to us. It reduces emotional distance and helps us bond. We are genetically wired for kindness so it is a more natural response than being mean.
Our ancestors learned to cooperate with each other and created strong emotional bonds in their groups. This increased the chances of survival so kindness became part of human behavior.
Even today, kindness creates connection with others and strengthens existing relationships.
5) Kindness is Catching
Kindness inspires others to be kind and there is even research showing that paying it forward actually creates a ripple effect that continues to spread outward to our friends’ friends’ friends – to 3-degrees of separation. It’s similar to the ripples a pebble creates when it is dropped in water. The kindness ripples outwards to touch others’ lives and inspires kindness everywhere.
The best part is that kindness is so easy. When you think about it, I bet you do kind acts every day.
How easy is it to compliment someone in the moment when you are having a good thought about them? How about letting someone cut in front of you at the supermarket. Calling a friend who might be lonely. Helping someone elderly who might need help going to the doctor.
And there is also kindness towards yourself. It helps to lessen anxiety, self-criticism and perfectionism.
But most of all, as love, kindness is an antidote to hate. I can’t think of anything that is more needed now than infusing our lives with kindness. It is a wellspring of hope and a counterbalance to despair.
November 13 is World Kindness Day. Check out this website to understand more about the importance of kindness.https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/world-kindness-day
So, the next time you have the opportunity to surprise someone with kindness…why not?