The Amazing Effects of Kindness
As Mother’s Day has just passed, a time when many of us take extra care to show gratitude to the Mother-figures in our lives for all they have done and continue to do, I couldn’t help but be inspired to write about random and everyday acts of kindness. Just witnessing the act of someone doing or saying something nice about another human being makes me feel happier. And did you know that there is science behind this? It’s true. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation reports that kindness is both teachable and contagious. What this means is that the positive effects of kindness are not limited to just the giver and receiver, but that they extend to everyone who is witness to (or even hears of) the kind act. And what are these benefits, you ask? Keep reading to find out.
Research has shown that acting in kind ways has the following effects:
- fewer aches and pains
- increased lifespan
- increased feelings of strength and energy
- increased feelings of calm and self worth
- lowered feelings of anxiety and depression
- increased levels of dopamine and feelings of pleasure, also know as the “helper’s high”
- increased levels of oxytocin, also known as the “lover’s hormone”
- lowered levels of cortisol, the stress hormone
- lowered blood pressure
…Yea, so there’s all of that!
So when I say that small, random acts of kindness can change the world, here’s what I’m talking about. Studies indicate that people regularly acting in kind ways results in the giver, the receiver and the bystanders all benefiting mentally, emotionally and physically. And on top of that, they are all more likely to pay the kindness forward to someone else. Just think about that domino effect! Amazing, isn’t it?
The Science Behind It All
The science behind this comes from research in social science and neuroscience, and what we know is that when certain neurons in the brain, called mirror neurons, begin firing it can lead us to feel connected and like we are experiencing that which we are witnessing. As an example, think about an emotionally provoking commercial that shows someone’s life story; you may begin to feel similar emotions to the person in the commercial because you are witnessing their experience…even if it is just an ad for a car!
What is also really interesting is that as we experience acts of kindness, either directly or indirectly, our brain chemistry starts to change. This is where the idea that kindness is teachable comes into play. Dr. Patty O-Grady Ph.D. reports, “kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness”. She goes on to say that kindness is not learned simply by thinking or talking about it, but that kindness is best learned by physically feeling it, so that the brain makes the connection and can then later reproduce it.
Now, because we are all about doing here at A Girl Gone Rogue, I’ve put together a list (which barely scratches the surface) of 30 random acts of kindness that anyone can do. So take a peak through the list, gather some ideas and try them out. And when you do, notice not only the other person’s response to your kindness, but also take the time to check in with yourself. How does this experience make you feel? What changes for you when you act in kind ways? What opportunities open up for you when you are kind to others?
30 Acts of Kindness
- Smile or say hello to someone as you pass by
- Take in your neighbour’s trash bins, mow their lawn or shovel the snow on their driveway
- Forgive someone…don’t just say you forgive them; authentically forgive them
- Be happy for somebody (and tell them)
- Pay for the coffee/order of the person behind you
- Tell the person working the drive thru/checkout/etc. they are doing a great job
- Invite someone over for a home cooked meal
- Tell someone in your life you love them, and why
- Volunteer your time
- Tell a friend she is beautiful
- Donate (clothes, money, goods, etc.)
- Tell someone, “thank you”
- Let someone go in front of you at the checkout
- Visit an animal shelter
- Call your Mom, Dad or other relative you haven’t spoken to in a while, just to say “hi”.
- Write and send a letter to a friend who now lives far away
- Bake someone a treat
- Return a long overdue phone call
- Make time to play with a child
- If someone does or says something rude towards you, respond with compassion and assume she is having a tough day
- Plant a seed
- Apologize, and mean it, to someone you have wronged.
- Ask how someone’s else day was, and really listen to the answer
- Pray for others
- Tell someone why you appreciate having them in your life
- Offer to help a stranger (grocery bags/open a door/etc.)
- Clean up someone else’s mess, or do their dishes for them
- Help out a busy friend (think of that new mom in your life; is there anything you could that would make her life just a little bit easier?)
- Ask the elders in your life about their life stories
- Teach someone a skill of yours, for free
So there you have it. 30 ideas to help get you started, and I’m sure you are doing any number of these already! With such strong evidence behind the personal, social and worldly benefits of being kind, even in such small, every day ways, why wouldn’t we want to practice this on the regular?
What random acts of kindness do you practice? I’d love to hear how this makes life better not only for the receivers in your life, but you as well.