Everyone benefits from showing kindness to others. Research has consistently shown that humans feel happier when they are performing acts of kindness. By finding ways to be good to others, you are creating opportunities for self-growth through this mutually beneficial exchange. Being kind to others does not mean that you have to sacrifice time or give away all your money. It is all about incorporating small and caring gestures into your everyday life.
Go With Your Instincts
It is a human instinct to be kind and compassionate toward others. Dacher Keltner, a University of California, Berkeley, psychologist, said in a 2009 school publication, "Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate. As [Charles] Darwin long ago surmised, sympathy is our strongest instinct.” This explains why you automatically jump out of your chair to help when someone falls or pull over to assist when you witness a car crash. The problem is that society has become very individualistic, and people are constantly repressing that instinct to do good. Notice yourself resisting that urge and don't let it keep you from doing things such as stopping to help a person pick up the books she dropped, changing a flat tire for an elderly person or picking up the tab for a person who forgot his wallet.
Practice Random Acts of Kindness
Challenge yourself to do something good for someone a certain number of times each week. You can bake cookies for your elderly neighbor, visit children at a local hospital, pay for a random person's drink at a coffee shop or send notes of appreciation to people you have worked with in the past. The beauty of these random acts is that you will spread happiness to others, and they are likely to "pay it forward." A study published in the March 2010 issue of the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" found that cooperative behavior is contagious. Your small gestures are likely to create a chain reaction of kindness.
Be Kind to Your Community
There are always many different opportunities to help out in your area. You can help by volunteering to play with the kids at your local children's shelter, playing bingo with the residents at a nursing home, helping pick up trash at your neighborhood parks or removing graffiti from walls in your area. If you are a parent, it is a very good idea to bring your children along so they can begin learning about the value of kindness and being a good citizen.
Support Family and Friends in Need
It is very important to also show love and kindness to those who are closest to you. If a friend is going through a loss or difficult time, you can show your support by cooking meals for her or helping her do household chores. You probably already do many things to support your loved ones, but showing them kindness randomly or without them asking you adds extra value to your gesture. Offer to baby-sit for a family member's kids so she can have a date with her spouse, treat a friend to a game or movie or host a "just because I love you" brunch for all your loved ones.
- Journal of Happiness Studies: Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion: Evidence for a Positive Feedback Loop between Prosocial Spending and Happiness
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Cooperative Behavior Cascades in Human Social Network
- UC Berkley: Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on stumbleupon Share on linkedin More Sharing Services Social scientists build case for 'survival of the kindest'
- Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images