We live in a world, at times can feel as though it is filled with negativity and cruelty. We can be exposed to negative and unkind comments through social media, TV or in our daily activities and it can be hard. The internet can be especially challenging as many people use the benefit of anonymity to be unkind. This makes bullying even more prevalent online than in person. You can choose to buck the trend and be positive and kind to others, this takes strength and confidence.
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” - Amelia Earhart
A lot of people struggle to see past their wants and needs and consider how their actions affect others. The jury is still out scientifically on whether or not we are predisposed to focus on ourselves or the needs of others. This article in Scientific America concludes that no behaviour is entirely genetic, social and environmental factors contribute to an individuals ability to prioritise cooperation over selfishness. One thing is clear by caring for your own needs at all times over the needs and wellbeing of others, you can lose valuable connections within your community.
“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others, for beautiful lips, speak only of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” – Audrey Hepburn
As humans evolved our ability to cooperate helped us build communities and society. In communities, we worked together to hunt for food, care for each other and create structures that kept us safe and warm. Everyone played their part in protecting the community against predators and other threats. Skip to present day and those who are fortunate can install burglar alarms, have access to convenient sources of food and even rely on social media platforms to feed our social urges. We are becoming ever more isolated and communities are becoming a thing of the past.
Face-to-face connections are diminishing and therefore meaningful connections are too. How many people in the street have you smiled at today? Did you take the bins out for an elderly neighbour? Did you hold the door open for someone today? Did you make someone a coffee? We have to practice positive habits to make a continual change and little things can make a huge difference to someone’s day.
Kindness is a strength. It may seem easy to show kindness to our family and friends, but it takes real strength to show kindness to strangers or even someone we don’t like. When we are struggling to express kindness to a difficult person, we need to remember that it’s not about them, it’s about our own choices and who we chose to be. Sometimes it’s not what we say or do, but being kind could be the absence of action, such as refusing to join in office gossip. It’s important to ask ourselves “Is what I am about to say or do kind or necessary?”
Kindness doesn’t only just benefit others, but it can positively affect our own physical and mental wellbeing as well. It has been proven that when we express kindness, our body releases oxytocin (love chemical) into our bloodstream, which shrinks inflammation in the cardiovascular system and reduces blood pressure. Also, oxytocin plays a role in our mental wellbeing by forming social bonds, elevating our mood and controlling anxiety. Humans cannot rely to live on a single 3-4 minute oxytocin boost from a single act of kindness, so repetition is key!
“You can always give something, even if it is only kindness.” – Anne Frank