Does kindness REALLY make us happy?
In brief. Yes. Experts have been studying the science of kindness for decades and much has been written about the benefits of being kind. Kindness makes us feel good, mentally and physically. Read on...
Aside from the fact that being kind makes you feel good, it’s also really important. Now more than ever, we live in a world where we’re constantly exposed to negative messages via social media and the news... and it’s not always easy to deal with.
Being kind helps to create an overall climate of trust, acceptance and comfort - the perfect antidote to this age of online cruelty and general snarkiness. Here’s why:
It helps to combat the ‘negativity bias’
Although we’ve evolved as a race since our caveman days, our brains haven’t. As a result, we still have an innate ‘negativity bias’ - a defence mechanism which makes us pay more attention to the bad than the good in order to keep us safe.
Back in the day, it was vigilant to keep worrying about the last place we’d seen a sabre-tooth, whereas acknowledging the pretty flowers wasn’t important. Today, the brain works the same way even though we’re almost never in any imminent danger. For example, getting a single mean comment on an Instagram post can make twenty positive ones seem to fade into the abyss.
The good news? Being kind can help, as it gives us something good to focus on and boosts our opinion of ourselves. After all, it’s harder to dislike yourself when you know you’re helping to make the world a better place!
It helps to create a sense of community
Humans are naturally a tribal race. Coming together as a community used to be essential for our survival, but it kept our happiness levels up too. Today, we rely less and less on each other for survival and as a result, communities are diminishing. Where humans used to gather round to share food from the day’s hunt or keep a lookout together for potential predators, today we have 24/7 convenience stores and burglar alarms.
The reasons to communicate with other people face-to-face are dwindling, meaning our social circles are too. Being kind to strangers, acquaintances and friends helps to strengthen bonds and the sense of community, creating a deeper and more meaningful connection than you could ever get through Facebook.
It’s good for your health
In January 2018, a study found that 85% of UK adults are experiencing stress regularly whilst research by the World Health Organisation found that approximately 3 million people in the UK are suffering with anxiety. With numbers so huge, it can be easy to feel somewhat powerless from time to time… but there’s something that each and every person can do to help, even if only a little bit.
When we’re kind, our bodies release oxytocin (a.k.a. ‘the love hormone’) into our bloodstream. This triggers a chemical reaction which dilutes our blood cells and shrinks inflammation in the cardiovascular system, thus reducing blood pressure and the chances of heart disease. But that’s not the only trick up its sleeve. Oxytocin can also help with mental, as well as physical, health by modulating fear and anxiety and producing antidepressant-like effects.
So, being kind is important for your physical and mental wellbeing and overall happiness. And, as most of you probably know, happiness is contagious!
Have we missed out some reasons why kindness matters? Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
Reference: WHO (2002), The Global Burden of Disease.