Many of us live our lives in search of happiness, but what if there really were little things you could do that all but guarantee a boost of happiness and a positive spike in your wellbeing. Things like exercise, breathing techniques, dancing and spending time in nature are all thought to release serotonin and dopamine, but little do people know, random acts of kindness do too!
Random Acts Of Kindness
If you look back on your life, it’s likely that the things you remember with fondness are experiences with family and friends, moments that take your breath away and random acts of kindness that people performed out of the goodness of their hearts.
Research suggests that random acts of kindness can bring about an increase in serotonin levels, known as a “helper’s high”, for both the giver and receiver, working to regulate your mood and balance your body’s healing system. This rush that you receive after performing an act of kindness is then followed by a sense of calm and overall emotional wellbeing. It seems that these benefits of random acts of kindness are then prolonged when either party remembers the act, thus helping to alleviate problems caused by stress and depression.
In a world of busy work schedules, constant bombardment of bad news stories, political and climate struggles and social media anxiety, it can be hard to make kindness a top priority. However, when we learn that loving-kindness meditation and actions bring about positive change and improvement of life satisfaction (B. L. Fredrickson’s, 1998, 2001), it’s easier to grasp the importance of including these random acts of kindness in our everyday lives.
It’s Not About The Size Of The Action
Mother Teresa once said,
We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.
It’s therefore important to keep in mind the how and why we do these acts of kindness, rather than focussing on the size and scale of the action, or the praise or reward we may receive for doing it. As soon as we perform an act from an egoic perspective – in order to receive validation – it loses its power to provide the positive lift we’re looking for.
Random acts of kindness can be anything from offering up your seat on the train or buying a homeless person a coffee, to inviting an elderly neighbour round for dinner or simply smiling and offering kind words to someone you interact with during the day. You never know what other people are going through so being a face of kindness and compassion can often go a really long way to improving someone’s day.
Three Reasons Why Kindness Is Good For You
If you’re not yet convinced that random acts of kindness are a good idea, read on to find out what benefits they could bring to your wellbeing…
Kindness Is Contagious
According to research carried out at Dartmouth College, ‘the positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.”’
Therefore, every time you perform a random act of kindness, you’re doing your bit to help create a more loving, kind and compassionate society.
Kindness Promotes Gratitude
Another reason why kindness is so important to our overall wellbeing is that it promotes gratitude for our own current situations which leads to empathy, compassion and connectedness to others. Research at both Berkley and Harvard shows that those who practiced gratitude on a regular basis were more optimistic and reported significantly better levels of mental health.
Random acts of kindness on a regular occasion can give you the little boosts you need to continue your own personal development towards calmness, positivity and gratitude.
Kindness Reduces Ageing
It is believed that random acts of kindness work to keep you looking younger and living longer, less stressful lives thanks to the fact that they help your body reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) and to process twice the amount of DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) which slows down the act of ageing.
Sonya Lyubomirsky, a leading researcher on happiness, cites kindness as one of the key drivers to living a happier lifestyle. Her studies have shown that kind people find it easier to find and perform tasks that make them happy and appreciate their lifestyle and surroundings a lot more.
How To Cultivate Kindness
While it’s easy to say ‘Yes! I’m going to be more compassionate and practice random acts of kindness every day’, it’s a little more difficult to make this into a sustainable practice. However, there are things that you can do that will help you cultivate kindness which in turn will hopefully enable your actions to become more sustainable and far-reaching.
Having a daily meditation and gratitude practice is a great way to ground yourself and focus on the present moment which allows you to melt away worries of the past and fears about the future. This helps to reduce stress, sleep disruption and cloudy thinking, all of which are aspects that may get in the way of completing random acts of kindness. When you focus on presence, gratitude and positivity, you’re much more likely to be in the right frame of mind to cultivate kindness.
Going on a yoga and meditation retreat allows you to solidify your practices in a calm and conducive environment so that you make these into daily rituals that improve your wellbeing and that you want to continue long term.
Now you know why random acts of kindness are so important and beneficial to your wellbeing, it’s time to start incorporating these into your life. The phrase ‘a little goes a long way’ has never been more pertinent than it is when it comes to kindness. Even if you don’t have the spare disposable income to use to offer gifts or treats to others, why not offer up your time and assistance to those in need?