We can be kind to strangers, to those we know, and to ourselves. Kind actions are often low-key and may be fleeting. When we are the recipients of an act of kindness, we are pleased, possibly surprised or inspired, and at the same time reassured about the basic goodness of humanity. What does research tell us about the effects of acting with kindness?
A Croatian researcher states, “Research has indicated that practicing love, kindness, and compassion for ourselves and others builds our confidence and sense of coherence, helps us create meaningful, caring relationships, increases individual and community resilience and well-being, promotes human rights, physical and mental health.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30439796 Also, acting with kindness was found to be a protective factor against suicidality in women: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30170585
The etymological root of the term “kindness” is shared with words like “kin” and “kinship,” indicating a basic type of positive activity among those related to us. However, kindness can be a social activity that extends to strangers when we believe that a kind action on our part will relieve a difficulty or improve a situation.
Random acts of kindness are usually undertaken with no expectation of recognition or reward. There are benefits both for the giver and the receiver of these random acts of kindness ( https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439760.2014.965269?src=recsys ). Students who “paid it forward” with kindness showed positive mental health benefits, while the recipients of these kind actions smiled more and indicated they would be more likely to “pay it forward” in turn.
How is random kindness perceived? One research study ( https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2011.626790 ) found that when people recalled an act of kindness that followed social norms, they felt more positive about it than about a random act. But those who recalled a random act of kindness tended to show more generosity toward strangers and even enemies.
Intentional kindness produces “subtle increases in day-to-day experiences of positive emotions.” US researchers found that evidence-based practices such as loving-kindness meditation can improve emotional wellbeing: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29201247
For an audio and text guided loving-kindness meditation, with associated research: https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/loving_kindness_meditation
Let’s be kind to each other and to ourselves today, and every day. That will make our world a better place.