Being kind is something I focus on a lot in my work and personal life. I believe that acting with compassion and kindness supports the growth of others and ourselves, and helps to produce better out-comes for individuals and communities. Kindness and concern for others aren’t necessarily novel concepts – they’ve been spoken and written about for centuries, but as a positive psychology practitioner, I’m also interested in the science of kindness and how it can contribute to both the wellbeing or others and ourselves.
As human beings, we are born hard-wired for kindness and altruism. From an evolutionary stand-point, being compassionate for others and forging connections and a sense of community, heightens our chances of survival in a world that can sometimes be threatening and scary. Research has shown that humans are more than simply social beings. We are ‘pro social beings’ and derive happiness from doing things both with and for others. Where ‘pro social behaviours’ are the norm, we see a reduction in anxiety and stress and we see better health for individuals.
Our innate altruism can sometimes be challenged by self interest, but research shows that it is relatively straightforward to reconnect with our kind selves though conscious acts. In one example, led by pre-eminent neuroscientist, Richard Davidson, school age children took part in a ‘kindness curriculum’. Studies show that when children enter school they shift away from being compassionate, towards selfishness. The ‘kindness curriculum’ had children think about the advantages of kindness and had them enact kind acts. For the children who took part, the shift towards selfishness was neutralised. A further study showed that the more acts of kindness a child displayed, the happier and more popular they became and the less likely they were to be bullied.
The great thing about kindness is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge act. Sure, filling the desk of your employees with roses every day might work wonders for your staff morale, but a simple smile and a ‘how’s your day?’ can also work the same. Remember, small actions can have a big impact.
It is my hope to share some inspirational stories of kindness with you and in doing so encourage you to harness the power of kindness, compassion and connection to positively impact your own wellbeing, whilst making a difference to the lives of others.
Depending on which device you’re viewing this on, click on or touch the image to read these stories: