Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate to others and to yourself.
Kindness can mean different things to different people but the true meaning is in how you choose to show it. Some people show it through empathy, kind gestures, compassion, thoughtfulness, acceptance, etc.
“Kindness is a feel good drug”
The act of being kind is probably one of the areas on my journey of personal development with which I struggle the most. My struggle is not caused by the fact that I find it difficult to be kind per se but more so because my own brand of kindness is sometimes coloured by judgement which hinge on whether or not I believe the prospective recipient of my kindness to be a worthy cause.
Let’s face it, most of us judge. We judge ourselves, we judge each other, our belongings and assets, the government, the economy, the world etc. We are always judging something in one form or another. I guess it’s called being human. However, this is not a natural state of being. It is a conditioned way of thinking that has been passed down through generations and in the environments in which we are raised.
The only way to break the cycle of this conditioned and judgemental thinking and behaviour is to be more conscious of it. By being more conscious, we can change our behaviour and thinking. We can catch ourselves in judgement and then immediately replace our judgemental thoughts by sending kind and loving thoughts to whoever or whatever we are judging.
“Kindness is not what you do, but who you are”
It’s easy to be kind. Being kind is our natural state of being. We can break the cycle of unkindness through the practice of kindness.
In his book, the power of kindness, Piero Ferrucci, an Italian philosopher and psychotherapist defines genuine kindness as a “strong, genuine, warm way of being”
Kindness is never calculating and is not motivated by self-interest. Real kindness only seeks to help and to be generous and attentive to other people’s lives.
Kindness brings joy and satisfaction to both the giver and receiver of acts of kindness. The recipient of kindness feels that he has been heard, seen, understood and nourished. His life is all the better for the experience. The giver of kindness does not walk away empty handed either. Kind people are found to be healthier, more productive, better equipped to face life’s unexpected challenges, and live more interesting and fulfilling lives.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
According to Ferrucci, “if we are healthier when we are caring, empathetic and open to others, it means we are born to be kind. Being anything other than being kind is therefore detrimental, not only to our existence, but also to that of all others.”
“Kindness is a way of making less effort. It is the most economic attitude there is, because it saves us much energy that we might otherwise waste in suspicion, worry, resentment, manipulation, or unnecessary defense. It is an attitude that, by eliminating the inessential, brings us back to the simplicity of being. Kindness has to do with the tenderest and most intimate in us. It is an aspect of our nature that we often do not express fully – especially men in our culture, but also women – because we are afraid that if this vulnerable side comes to light, we might suffer, be offended , ridiculed, or be exploited. We will find, rather, that we suffer by not expressing it.” – Piero Ferrucci
In the words of Lao Tzu, “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
Kindness really matters in our lives. If every person on the planet were to prioritize kindness, there would be much more peace in our world.
Generosity is a form of kindness. It is giving freely and unselfishly of your time, money and resources to benefit others.
Kindness is one of those strange paradoxes. It is a paradox because the happier we make others, the happier we ourselves become. The more we give away, the more we get in return.
In their book, The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose, sociologists Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson assert that “Those who give their resources away, receive back in turn. In offering our time, money, and energy in service of others’ well being, we enhance our own well being as well. In letting go of some of what we own for the good of others, we better secure our own lives, too”
There are many ways of being kind to others, such as, giving donations, helping, sending silent blessings and positive thoughts, volunteering, defending or speaking on behalf of a vulnerable party, smiling and expressing positivity, being empathetic, paying compliments.
Benefits of being kind
- More happiness – Kindness releases feel good hormones. Doing nice things for others boosts your serotonin, the transmitter responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well being. Like exercise, altruism also releases endorphins, a phenomenon known as a “helper’s high.” Acting kindly helps you relax and makes you feel good. Helping others elevates our mood, makes us happier and more optimistic.
- Fewer negative emotions – In the same way that kindness boosts positive emotions, it reduces negative emotions. If you are kind, you are less likely to feel anger, anxiety, sadness, depression and fear.
- Better health – Negative emotions can be harmful to our health. Conversely positive emotions are linked to better health. Kindness therefore has positive side effects on health and well – being. It strengthens the immune system and enhances psychological and physical resilience. Kindness can reduce stress levels. Being kind has also been found to reduce blood pressure. Kindness strengthens your heart physically and emotionally. According to health.com you’re at greater risk of heart disease if you don’t have a strong network of family and friends. When you are kind to others, you develop stronger and more meaningful relationships. Inflammation in the body is associated with various health problems such as cancer, chronic pain, diabetes, obesity and migraines etc. According to a study of adults aged 57 – 85, “volunteering manifested the strongest association with lower levels of inflammation.” Oxytocin also reduces inflammation, and even little acts of kindness can trigger oxytocin’s release.
- Better relationships – Kindness is the state of caring about other people’s well being and taking action to make other people’s lives better and happier. Kindness is a social glue that allows us to connect with others and build meaningful relationships with them.
“Kindness is seeing the best in others when they cannot see it in themselves”
“Kindness is doing what you can , where you are, with what you have.”