Barbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
How does communicating kindness improve our well-being and our world?
Kindness. What does it mean to you? It goes beyond being nice. It is demonstrating compassion, grace, empathy, goodwill, mercy, acceptance, and more. It is being generous, considerate, caring, thoughtful, helpful, and forgiving. It is love in action.
Would you agree that the world could use more kindness?
Road rage. Violence in our schools. Wars and rumors of wars. Broken relationships. Depression. Anxiety. Anger. Could kindness make a difference?
A recent research paper was titled: “Kindness in short supply: Evidence for inadequate prosocial input.” Researchers from four business schools including Harvard, Stanford, American University, and Berkeley found too many people overestimated the cost of showing kindness and underestimated the impact. The ROI was perceived as too low. How wrong.
As the song lyrics remind us, we need to try a little kindness.
A recent blog post explored the benefits of gratitude. We learned that gratitude is good for our physical, mental, and social well-being. Could kindness have a similar effect?
The positive power of kindness
Kindness is beneficial to the giver, the receiver, and even to observers. Kindness benefits us physically, mentally, and socially. For that, we can be grateful, which amplifies the positive effect.
Kindness produces oxytocin, a hormone that helps us feel connected, boosts our self-esteem, increases optimism, and lowers our blood pressure.
Kindness produces serotonin, which increases feelings of happiness, calms us, and lowers our levels of anxiety and depression.
Volunteering and other acts of kindness are associated with reduced inflammation, stronger immunity, improved health, and longer life.
Kindness produces endorphins, our body’s natural painkiller.
Practicing self-compassion and kindness to ourselves and others results in lower cortisol levels, the stress hormone, reducing stress, and improving blood sugar control.
Kindness protects the body’s telomeres, which in turn slows the biological aging process.
The impact of kindness is considered as powerful as exercise in promoting health and longevity.
Is kindness contagious?
As the sticky note above tells us, kindness begets kindness.
When people experience or observe kindness, they in turn show more kindness to others. Kindness creates a ripple effect spreading kindness in all directions. The way kindness is expressed may differ but the intention to be kind, generous, or helpful is the common denominator.
Let’s beget some kindness.
How can we communicate kindness?
There are hundreds of ways we can communicate kindness to others. Here are some ways that can be done daily.
Human touch Holding a loved one’s hand, a hug, a back rub, or a pat on the back, are all non-verbal ways to communicate kindness. Touch with respect and permission of course.
A warm smile The power of the human smile is surprising. Smile warmly with your whole face.
Words of encouragement Great to see you! Have a great day! Enjoy your weekend. I’ll be thinking about you… There are so many ways to uplift others with kind words that encourage and build up. In addition to spoken words, send notes and cards to spread kindness.
A listening ear Sometimes the greatest act of kindness is to stop talking and start listening, actively listening. Prompt for more. Empathize. Listen some more.
An honest compliment Words of praise can turn someone’s day around. Let people know when they have done a good job, look good, and are appreciated. Not flattery, an honest compliment.
An act of caring (volunteering, acts of service, random acts of kindness) Open the door for someone, put money in the kettle, sign up to deliver meals, surprise someone with a gift, just because. There are so many opportunities to do kind deeds.
Join or start a kindness movement. One example is the Mayo Clinic Kickstart Kindness program.
The Greek storyteller Aesop is credited with saying “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
How could you communicate kindness today?
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo Buscaglia
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