The Simple Science of Kindness and How We Can Improve
The Simple Science of Kindness and How We Can Improve
We all know the golden rule; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But why do we value kindness so highly that it becomes one of the first lessons we teach our children? Here, you will learn the science of kindness and how you can master it to improve your life.
What is Kindness
The definition of kindness is the act of being generous, considerate, or friendly. But kindness is so much more than a simple definition. Think about it. Would you like others to describe you as kind? Are you inclined to associate with people you identify as kind? And think of how being described as kind is different from just being a “nice” person. Certainly, being nice is part of being kind but the idea seems more personal. Well, that’s because it is. Kindness can be interpreted and misinterpreted based on the personal experiences and desires of the people giving and receiving kindness. That’s what makes giving recognized acts of kindness so important because kindness is personal.
The Science of Kindness
Studies indicate that as humans, we are hardwired to be kind. But we can improve our lives by regularly practicing kindness in adulthood. In fact, it can be even more important to regularly practice kindness in adulthood because the stress of day-to-day life can cause us to lose sight of our inherent generosity.
Kindness, along with empathy, allows us to relate to other people and maintain positive relationships. However, aside from helping us relate to our friends and family, kindness is also good for you in a variety of ways.
Kindness Releases Feel-Good Hormones
So, why are we psychologically predisposed to kindness? Most research indicates the reason kindness makes us feel good is all because of a little hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is a powerful asset in feeling connected to one another. Sometimes called “the love” or “cupid” hormone, oxytocin plays a role in developing social bonds and trust for other people. Most importantly, oxytocin is a natural way to fight pain and depression. Interestingly enough, it can be released when performing a number of actions, and being kind is among them.
Kindness Helps With Anxiety
Whether you suffer from mild nervousness or an extreme panic condition, anxiety is an extremely common experience. There are many ways to cope with this condition. It turns out that one of the easiest and least expensive is to be nice to other people. Studies show that social anxiety is connected to low positive affect in social situations. This means the perceived positivity of regular interactions is minimal and they feel little joy or interest in social situations. However, researchers found that those who committed kind acts to others displayed an increased feeling of positivity in the same social situations.
So, if you are feeling a little anxious about an upcoming social event, seek opportunities to help others.
Kindness is Good For Your Heart
Being kind can be heartwarming in more ways than one. Kindness can actually affect the chemical balance of your heart. As discussed earlier, kindness releases oxytocin, which in addition to helping us bond it also causes the release of nitric oxide in the blood vessels. This dilates the blood vessels which increases the flow of blood and oxygen in our bodies which reduces blood pressure.
So, if you are looking to improve your heart health, try warming the heart of friends and family on a regular basis.
Kindness Helps With Longevity
We all want to live longer and being kind to others can help. Studies show that people with a strong network of close friends and family experience a reduced risk of heart disease. Kindness to others is one of the best ways to grow this strong network. People like being around people who are nice to them and make them feel cared about. Kindness is the simplest way to do so.
Kindness Prevents Illness
According to a study of older adults ages 57-85, volunteering was strongly associated with lower levels of inflammation common in this demographic. The little love bug, oxytocin, also reduces inflammation.
How to Better Practice Kindness
So, now that you know the benefits of being kind, here are a few ways you can practice kindness every day.
Little Acts of Kindness
Try to actively think of how you can help and show appreciation to people in your life.
- Next time you are getting a cup of coffee, genuinely ask the barista how their day is going.
- Haven’t heard from your friend for a little while? Reach out and ask them out to lunch on you.
- Out grocery shopping? Pick up a little treat just for your significant other.
- When people are speaking to you, try to focus entirely on them and what they are saying without letting your mind wander.
Be Kind to Yourself
This one can be particularly hard, but negative self-talk can be extremely toxic and gets in the way of being kind to others. Try:
- Telling yourself you are good enough.
- Treating yourself to something you enjoy.
- Practicing mindfulness.
There are a number of ways you can be generous, but here are a few:
- Be generous with your time.
- Be generous with your words and actions.
- Give generous signs of affection (could be physical or verbal).
Think of Those Who Are Kind to You
Have you experienced kindness from someone else? Why not return the favor:
- Write them a note letting them know you appreciated their kindness.
- Do them a little favor without them having to ask.
Try Not to Judge Others
The saying goes, hurt people hurt people. If you experience unkindness, try not to judge the unkind person. Not only will you not be contributing to a cycle of negativity, but you might also even help that person stop from continuing to be unkind.
As you can see, kindness is the secret to a healthier life, so share a smile or a kind word with someone today!
Concord Reserve is a continuing care retirement community in Westlake, Ohio. We’re focused on supporting the vibrant and active lifestyles of our residents so they can age well. For more information, contact Concord Reserve online or at 440-871-0090. Concord Reserve is a continuing care retirement community in Cleveland, Ohio.