10 Ways You Can Spread Kindness in the World Today (And Boost Your Mental Health Doing It)
What is Kindness?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Kindness is “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate”.
But kindness is more than just that, it can be part of something bigger. Have you ever been the beneficiary of someone’s kindness and felt compelled to pass it on? Kindness can generate a chain reaction, like a wave that keeps moving, with just one person needed to trigger it. A single act of kindness, no matter how small, can have a ripple effect that benefits a whole community. By making a conscious effort to be kind, we are initiating a movement for positive change.
A Kinder World Around Us Starts with Treating One Person Kindly
As Gandhi’s famous quote says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” That quote is not solely about one individual being able to change the world. It extends beyond that to a larger collective embrace of an ideal, which is the possibility that one person’s action can inspire and initiate further behaviours from others toward that ideal.
A good way to begin such positive change toward a kinder world is simply by treating yourself kindly. If the value of kindness is one which we wish to propagate in the world around us, we can’t ourselves be the exception to the rule and the one person who we won’t treat kindly! It wouldn’t make sense, nor would it allow us to authentically claim to live by the value of kindness.
Beyond that, we know that people are often inspired by authenticity and the positive example of others, so how we treat ourselves can influence others’ willingness to follow our example. Being kind to yourself has benefits too when it comes to your ability to give to others – it becomes easier to pour into others’ glasses when your own glass isn’t empty.
A Simple Experiment: Treating Yourself Like You Would Treat Others
People tend to indulge in self-criticism, whether internalised or out loud, but often this can demotivate rather than inspire. While reasonable self-evaluation can be valuable for learning, motivation, adapting to situations and getting along with others, unchecked and habitual negative regard toward ourselves can instead lead to self-doubt and an endless cycle of self-critique, hopelessness and despair. When we catch ourselves speaking to ourselves in a way that we wouldn’t speak to our friends, that’s when we should aim to implement a new, more beneficial response that actually helps us rather than leaving us worse for wear. You don’t need to “stop” the onset of negative thoughts – they happen to all of us – just recognise them as a prompt to shift gears and try something different.
Following a “good friend” policy toward ourselves can help us be more compassionate to the one person we’re guaranteed to spend our time with every day. If you were on holidays with someone, or had to work alongside them every day, you’d want a good relationship with them based on mutual kindness, understanding and empathy. So it’s a great lesson to learn as you travel through this life: If you wouldn’t say it to your friend or treat them in such a way, there’s no need to engage in negative self-talk or behaviours toward yourself that run against your values.
The Science Behind Kindness
A 2019 study demonstrated the benefits of kindness by examining how people felt after doing or watching kind acts over a seven-day period. The participants were randomly assigned a task, to either carry out daily at least one more kind act than the participant would do so usually (be it directed toward someone close to them, an acquaintance, a stranger or themselves), or they were tasked to actively observe kind acts performed by another person.
Participants’ happiness was measured before and after the seven-day kindness intervention period, the study finding that in just a week, either increasing our own kind acts or even observing acts of kindness toward others can increase our personal happiness in comparison to a control group. What’s more, a positive correlation was found between the number of kind acts and increases in happiness – the more kind acts we partake in, the happier we’re likely to feel.
Physiologically, it’s been observed that observing or partaking in kind acts leads to the release of oxytocin, sometimes known as the ‘love hormone’. Oxytocin assists in alleviating hypertension and enhancing overall cardiovascular well-being, as well as boosting self-confidence and positivity. These effects can be particularly useful in instances where we feel apprehensive or self-conscious in social settings. Kindness has also been found to impact positively upon dopamine and serotonin production, both implicated in boosting positive emotions and protection from depressive symptoms.
So what can we take away from the science? Partaking in or observing kind acts lifts our physical and mental health in a number of ways – but like any value, kindness is never “complete” – the effect isn’t lasting and requires repetition and practice to continue to have a positive impact on us. What better time to start than World Kindness Day?
If you’re looking to form a habit of kindness or feel it’s time to start being kinder and more compassionate toward yourself or others, BUSY Health can assist you in:
- Identifying and normalising the occurrence of negative self-talk and self-limiting beliefs
- Defining and understanding your values
- Practicing self-compassion
- Strategies to “unhook” from negative thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviours
- Understanding and practicing mindfulness
- Building sustainable habits and setting workable goals
- Committing to values-aligned behaviours
10 Ways You Can Spread Kindness in the World Today
(And Boost Your Mental Health Doing It)
Kindness Toward Yourself:
- Recognise one thing you’ve achieved or done well recently
- Identify one negative thought you won’t indulge next time you catch it in your mind
- Identify the number one sign you’re in need of a rest or a recharge
- Trat yourself like you would treat a good friend who deserves kindness, like giving flowers, providing a compliment, going somewhere special
- Plan a “self-care” day
- Write yourself a letter acknowledging your challenges but recognising your strengths and resilience to date
- Make time for mindfulness or meditation to make the rest of your day easier
- If it would be beneficial, allow yourself to reach out for support socially or professionally
- Reach out to people that leave you feeling more positive
- Take yourself for a walk somewhere you’d be glad you went
Kindness Toward Others:
- Give positive feedback to someone serving you or to their manager
- Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has positively impacted your life
- Call a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while
- Post a positive online review
- Let someone in front of you in traffic
- Tell someone how they have changed your life for the better
- Surprise someone with a thoughtful gift
- Leave a treat for people we rely on (cleaners, posties, cashiers, etc.) with a note of thanks
- Tell someone something you appreciate about them
- Text someone and tell them you love or appreciate them