Kindness is not difficult to understand. We know it when we see it. It arrests our attention and forces us to observe and feel it.
We also know we should be kind. In our personal and professional lives, we expect kindness.
So, why is it so rare?
The Kindness Muscle
Being kind takes practice. Intentional work, at least at first, so kindness becomes a habit. Something that moves moments of kindness to being a kind person.
It is unlikely that many of us have "be kind" with a few specific actions on our task list today. If you are serious about being a kind person, it's going to start with kind actions that you purposefully plan with the time allocated to do so.
I know that seems artificial, but most growth is in the beginning while we build muscle.
Let's look at the benefits to you and benefits to others, then explore how to get started.
The Biological Benefits of Kindness
There is no shortage of research telling us that kindness benefits us. I will preface this by acknowledging that the biological benefits alone won't motivate you. I address motivation in my article, The Lie About Motivation if that's something you are working on.
In studying the benefits of kindness, I discovered a one-pager by randomactsofkindness.org that made the point that kindness is experienced by the one being kind and anyone who observes it. That means many feel the biological effects, not just the giver and receiver of the kindness. This is a high-leverage activity for those following the 4 Disciplines of Execution: small effort, huge impact.
Some of the biological impacts:
- Increases oxytocin, the love hormone.
- Many feel more energetic.
- Altruistic people are happiest in a surveyed population in 136 countries.
- Increases serotonin which calms you down and makes you happy.
Kind people experience less pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and lower blood pressure.
For Fans of Science
One kindness blocker is social anxiety. Some of us are aware of an opportunity to be kind, but we can't convince ourselves to take the step to connect. This excerpt from quietrev.com explains the powerful benefits of kindness when it comes to social anxiety.
"As pointed out in a study on happiness from the University of British Columbia (UBC), “social anxiety is associated with low positive affect (PA), a factor that can significantly affect psychological well-being and adaptive functioning.” Positive affect refers to an individual’s experience of positive moods such as joy, interest, and alertness.
UBC researchers found that participants who engaged in kind acts displayed significant increases in PA sustained over the study's four weeks.
So, the next time you feel anxious, look for opportunities to help others. This could range from smiling at someone, calling a friend to volunteer, or lending your time to an organization. Even a small gesture can make a big difference."
Where to Start
How to be kind seems obvious, but we would probably do it more often if it were that obvious. For example, here are four things we could start within the workplace today:
- Keep that sigh to yourself.
- Listen to others carefully without interrupting.
- Say, “I’m sorry.”
- Ask, “How can I help you?”
Here are more ideas for both personal and professional applications.
The Most Important Part: Get Started
Wanting to be kind is not enough. If it were, the world would be a much kinder place.
Here is my challenge to get this kick-started: each day for the next seven days, block time to be intentionally kind, choosing 3 acts of kindness for the day. Some might be scheduled, such as making time to check in on a friend after work or might be able to be done right away, such as sending a kind note to someone you met last week.
This may seem a bit manufactured, but I assure you it will put you in the mindset of looking for ways to be kind. That muscle will grow strong quickly, and you will reap the many rewards of kindness, inspiring those around you to do the same!