I’m a firm believer that your selfish vs. altruistic mindsets are firmly cemented the more actions you make. For example, if we spend all of our working years actively chasing early retirement and choosing not to give (after all, one donation could mean 2 weeks/months/years more work!), we’re not going to one day wake up and decide the time is right to start giving. On the flip side, if we get into the habit now of charitable giving, it will become a habit and doing good with money won’t be difficult later.
Just as I think giving money is a habit, kindness is also a habit. Kindness may not make you rich, but it will definitely enrich your journey. Today, I want to make a case for being kind. There is enough rhetoric in the world about how to be cut-throat, ruthless, step on the little guy to get a leg-up, and not looking down on your way to the top. The world doesn’t need more of that. And if that’s the requirement for being successful, I’m happy to be a failure.
Kindness is Contagious
You know those commercials where one act of kindness turns into many? I love those! And it’s true. When you are the recipient of an act of pure kindness, you want to share that love!
People mimic behavior and kindness is especially contagious. In a social interaction experiment, participants were involved in a public goods game. When a person chose to be altruistic in their choices, this behavior caught on and other participants started doing it as well. The study explained: “each additional contribution a subject makes to the public good in the first period is tripled over the course of the experiment by other subjects who are directly or indirectly influenced to contribute more as a consequence.” Your behavior can be tripled because of your influence!
Kindness is Healthy
If you’re a Scrooge, just think about how miserable his life was! If you need a selfish reason to give kindness a try, just think of the health benefits!
A 2006 study looked at giving social support and blood pressure. They did find that people that gave social support had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, but there were many secondary findings as well. Participants that reported higher rates of giving also reported “greater self-efficacy, greater self-esteem, less depression, and less stress than participants with a lower tendency to give social support to others.” These givers also reported receiving support at much higher rates. When we give, we are able to recognize how other people help us!
When you make a donation, your brain triggers a reward that is the very same response as when you receive a monetary reward! A similar study asked participants to spend a windfall on themselves or on another person. The people that spent the money on someone else reporting feeling significantly happier. Also, because of this happiness, they were more likely to spend money on someone else the next time! Giving leads to more giving and more happiness!
Helping others may even lower your risk of death compared to not helping!
Kids Know Kindness
Kids are born knowing kindness. I’m just going to leave this cute little video here:
When you say mean things, your kids mimic you. When you say you “can’t afford to help” or “don’t have time,” your kids learn that helping is only for times that are convenient.
So how do we learn kindness?
The Counting Kindness Exercise
In a Japanese study, participants were asked to be more aware of their own levels of kindness. For one week, they were asked to write down every act of kindness they performed and add them up.
When you know you’re being held accountable, you are more conscious about doing it. If you had to write down every single act of kindness you performed, do you think you would probably perform more? (I would!)
The study found that all participants that did the counting kindness exercise were happier overall by the end of it (compared to controls). It’s THAT EASY!
Kindness is worth cultivating. I have never regretted a time where I chose to be kind.