The 19th-century American author Henry James observed, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” Imagine what the world would be like if everyone embraced that philosophy.
Research has found that acts of kindness can produce a positive feedback loop between kindness and happiness. In other words, doing acts of kindness make us feel happier, and that happiness, in turn, promotes continued altruism. Another study revealed that recipients of kindness become happier (of course, right?)—but they found that the doers of kindness benefited even more than the receivers. Not only did they report an increase in happiness, but an increase in life and job satisfaction, as well as a decrease in depression. Apparently, when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and awards center is activated as if you were the recipient of the kind act. In essence, giving has a boomerang effect on the brain, which researchers have called the “helper’s high.” Numerous studies have found greater psychological flourishing when people are giving to others as opposed to themselves.
Studies have found that acts of kindness reduce inflammation, blood pressure, negative feelings, depression, stress, and anxiety. In fact, it appears that kindness from the heart is good for the heart. According to Dr. Hamilton, author of The Five Side Effects of Kindness, being kind to others creates emotional warmth by releasing oxytocin (otherwise known as the love/attachment hormone), which in turn stimulates the release of nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. Kindness helps protect the heart by lowering blood pressure. It is cardio-protective.
Rather poetic irony, isn’t it? Opening your heart can actually protect it.
Acts of kindness are also linked to increased levels of happiness, longevity, life satisfaction, optimism, energy, and peer acceptance. If that doesn’t convince you, I’ll gladly appeal to your romantic side. Recent research reveals that kindness is the trait that people want most in a partner. Kindness trumped physical looks, financial security, humor, and a whole host of other variables. Dr. John Gottman, the world-renowned researcher and clinician who has spent over forty years studying marriage stability and divorce, has found that kindness is the glue that holds marriages together. So, kindness is not only what draws you to a relationship; it’s also what apparently keeps you there. Fancy that. Just. Being. Kind.
Researchers have found that kindness has a ripple effect, as recipients start to spontaneously pay it forward. Simply stated, kindness is contagious. Like a game of benevolent dominos. And every act of kindness counts—from a smile to a thank you, to buying the next customer’s coffee, to volunteering, to humanitarian initiatives.
There are so many inspiring stories about kindness in this world. One that immediately comes to mind is Chef José Andrés and his charity, World Central Kitchen, which has served over fifteen million meals to those in need during times of global crisis. You see him, his field kitchens, and his staff of forty-five thousand volunteers at the scene of pandemics, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, and floods worldwide. He and his team come in when most people are fleeing. The acclaimed chef has an insatiable appetite for kindness and serves as a beacon and role model to millions.
The late Princess Diana was another walking embodiment of kindness. In 1987, she was famously photographed shaking hands with an AIDS patient without gloves at a time ridden with misconceptions, prejudice, and fear about the nature of the disease and its transmission. She transformed the dialogue around AIDS with her single act of kindness. A handshake. Piercing through the false narrative more effectively than any impassioned speech.
Another foot soldier of kindness is comedian Russell Brand who has been known to often spend time with the homeless—not just buying them food but spending time with them. It might seem like a small thing, but the truth is time is often the greatest gift you can give—far more valuable and meaningful than any dollar amount ever could be.
To reiterate, all acts of kindness matter. Big and small. The ripple effect produces a current of compassion that connects us all.
Happiness is the new rich. Inner peace is the new success.– Syed Balkhi
Health is the new wealth. Kindness is the new cool.