For the past couple of years in my town, yard signs have been popping up with two simple words, “be kind.” What began as a school initiative extended to the town at large and brought simple, but wise words to all those who passed by. Being kind brings better health and wellbeing to those who follow the principle and reminds us of the surprising benefits of kindness.
Better physical wellbeing
Lower blood pressure and decreased cortisol levels are two of the physical benefits of kindness. Both of these health indicators are indicative of lower stress levels and a more calm physical state within the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, extending kindness to others can also lead to a healthier and longer life. Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness; In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, writes that “people 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health.” Serving others through acts of kindness yields positive health outcomes.
Better emotional wellbeing
Improved self-esteem, empathy, and compassion are also benefits of kindness. Mood is boosted as you extend kindness to others when the feel good hormones serotonin and dopamine are released in the brain. You also feel more connected to others and stave off loneliness in doing so. Happiness also results from being altruistic, especially when it’s directed toward financial generosity. Additionally, a boost of energy is likely to ensue after a random act of kindness and altruism. According to one study, about half of the participants reported feeling stronger and more energetic when they practiced kindness.
Better intrapersonal wellbeing
The same kindness you extend to others should be turned inward as well. The benefits of kindness are observable internally when you are more forgiving, patient, and loving toward yourself. When you stop beating yourself up and focus on gratitude instead, you improve your personal, internal wellbeing and are more capable of extending kindness to others more freely. Psychological flourishing is more likely when you are kind to yourself and others.
Better relational wellbeing
Kindness is contagious. When you’re kind to others, others notice and often, they begin to mimic the same behaviors. You draw people to you and build stronger relationships with a like minded group of people. Your “village” is stronger. Having a strong network of friends to draw from during difficult times improves your relational wellbeing and support when it’s most needed. Plus, kindness has a ripple effect. Those you’re kind to are more likely to pay it forward and act kindly to others. The relational world around you improves as the impact grows and expands the positive benefits of kindness on others.
The benefits of kindness extend to the giver and the receiver. Being kind improves your physical, emotional, intrapersonal, and relational wellbeing and those on the receiving end. So, follow the advice of all those yard signs and look for ways to “be kind” today. A little kindness goes a long way.