Spotlight on Kindness
If you turn on the TV today or get on a news app, all you can see in this environment are stories of despair, uncertainty, sadness and hopelessness. So amid all the doom and gloom it’s incredibly amazing when we hear stories of communities coming together, people helping each other out and random acts of kindness performed by complete strangers. Well, it turns out that those acts of kindness not only benefit the receiver but improve the giver’s health too.
Take a moment and reflect on these questions:
How do others receive your kindness?
In this pandemic environment, do you notice a difference in the ease in which you express the different dimensions of kindness? For instance generosity, care, compassion or being nice?
When is it most important for you to turn your kindness inward, toward yourself?
Kindness in positive psychology is a character strength and it’s useful to understand that there are scientifically proven benefits of being kind. Studies show that random acts of kindness benefits both our mental and physical wellbeing and health. Researchers Hui and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis on the links between prosociality (kindness; altruism; cooperation, trust and compassion) and wellbeing. Here are some of the brief findings of this study and other kindness studies from across the world:
Acts of kindness can increase eudaimoic wellbeing or psychological wellbeing. Growth can be seen in the following areas – self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, positive relations with others, environmental mastery and autonomy.
Sudden charitable activities can boost wellbeing rather than planned volunteering. For instance helping a person cross the street or help an elderly person carry groceries home. The study shows that random acts are less likely to become “stale”.
Random acts of kindness can help people form more social connections.
The studies show that prosocial behaviour provides different benefits for different age groups. For younger people, kind acts produce higher levels of overall wellbeing and boosts psychological function. Interestingly for older people physical health is more likely to improve performing good deeds.
People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains and it protects their overall health.
Kindness stimulates serotonin and oxytocin, which is often referred to as the love hormone.
Acts of kindness boosts energy.
Kindness is one of the five most prevalent character strengths across the globe.
Acts of kindness help buffer against the negative effects of stress and trauma.
Kindness towards oneself can have numerous benefits including optimism, social connectedness, goal mastery and less anxiety, self-criticism and perfectionism.
Multiple studies have also shown kindness to decrease stress, pain, anxiety and depression.
Positive psychologists offer these four well-validated positive psychology kindness interventions that you can try.
Keep track of each kind act you perform every day by writing it down and counting the kind acts at the end of the day (Otake and colleagues, 2006)
Offer the gift of your time to benefit a person you were not planning on giving time to (Gander and collegaues)
“Pay forward” a random act of kindness that brings benefit to others and does not generate a favour back to you (Baker & Bulkley, 2014).
Loving Kindness Meditation: Another well-validated intervention to boost kindness and compassion towards oneself and other is the Loving Kindness Meditation. This involves directing mindfulness to boost and improve self-care particularly at this time of the upheaval, anxiety and uncertainty.
Think of someone in your life you have felt deeply loved by. Reflect on a specific situation in which, that person fully and genuinely loved you.
Allow yourself to feel the love from that person in that situation as if it’s happening right now. Open yourself to notice feelings in your body.
Recite the following four lines of meditation, feeling and perhaps forming pleasant images associated with each line: May I be filled with loving-kindness; May I be safe from inner and outer dangers; May I be well in body and mind; May I be at ease and happy.
So whether you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or hopeless at the moment, take some time out of your day to appreciate all the good that’s going on in the world and try one of the above positive psychology interventions. After all, sometimes all we need is a little reminder that, no matter how bleak everything may seem, there are always good people doing good things.