Life is full of life-changing moments. The decisions we make and the things that we do can significantly impact our lives and the lives of others. Intentional acts of kindness, even those that may seem to go unnoticed, can cause a ripple effect that touches the lives of many.
The Science of Kindness
Practicing kindness toward others can help lead us to paths of happiness. Research suggests that acts or experiences of kindness release chemicals in the brain that can improve our overall well-being. Oxytocin, sometimes called “the love hormone,” helps us bond with others and make us more trusting and generous. It can lower blood pressure, ease stress, lower anxiety, promote sleep, and reduce drug cravings. Studies show that acts of kindness give our oxytocin levels a boost. Kind acts of helping others can also increase substance P, an endorphin-like chemical in the body, which is known to relieve pain and strengthen our immune systems. The overall good feeling associated with the increase of Oxytocin and substance P, which people often experience after doing a good deed or act of kindness, often gets referred to as “Helper’s High.”
Kindness Begins with Being Kind to Yourself
The way we treat ourselves carries over to how we treat others. So, for example, if you’re happy, well-rested, and at peace with yourself, you’re more likely to be patient, giving, and kinder to others. Practicing self-care, self-compassion, and self-love means accepting ourselves for who we are, recognizing that mistakes don’t define us, and doing things that will benefit our mental and physical health. When we value and take care of ourselves, we’re in a better position to do the same for others.
Kindness Spreads by Being Kind to Others
A study from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that when people benefit from kindness either by giving, receiving, or witnessing, they are more likely to spread kindness with more good acts. You’ve probably heard stories about “people paying it forward” in a drive-thru line; how one person pays for the car order behind them, and then the cycle continues. The chain reaction of kind acts found in a drive-thru line is one example of the ripple effects of kindness.
Ways that Parents Can Teach Kindness
One of the best ways that parents can teach kindness is by modeling it. Kids and teens learn more from their parent’s actions than their words. Along with giving to others, we can also display kindness by how we respond to others. For example, our interactions with others, whether it’s when meeting in person, on the road with other drivers, or through social media engagement, are all opportunities to model and spread kindness.
Ways to Be Kind
Kind acts can be big or small. Here are some kind act examples:
- Smile and make eye contact with others to make their day happier
- Volunteer and encourage your family to join
- Give a genuine compliment
- Offer to help without being asked
- Just listen and be present
- Send a kind message (text, email, card, or letter)
- Call a friend or family member, and let them know you’re thinking about them
- Encourage someone when they’re feeling unmotivated
- Say please and thank you
- Clean out your cabinets and closet and donate to others the things you don’t need
- Only make positive comments on social media posts
- Frame a photo memory and give it to others in the picture
- Hold the door for someone
- Let people through while in traffic
- Answer the phone when somebody calls
- Acknowledge someone’s kindness to you