Last Sunday marked World Kindness Day. The definition of a random act of kindness is doing something spontaneous and generous to someone without expecting anything back in return.
Science shows us that people who act altruistically tend to be happier, healthier and, in fact, to live longer themselves. There are numerous studies which show that being kind or being on the receiving end of kindness has many health benefits. There are numerous studies which show that we could potentially live longer, it lowers blood pressure, it makes us less anxious, or even slow down the process of aging!
Aside from that though, the most immediate effect is that is we feel good. When you are kind to others, you feel good as a person. That rush and increase in the production of serotonin is known as the 'feel-good' hormone and is instrumental in giving us that''self-satisfaction' feeling.
But why should we act altruistically?
An act of kindness is likely to make the giver feel good about themselves and the receiver to feel empowered and valued. Societies that embrace altruism foster cultures in which people become integrated, co-operative and empowered, which is of benefit to us all.
To put it simply, from a sociological perspective, when people are kind, it naturally reduces tension amongst us and reduces the potential for conflict. Taking that to another level, it can foster a sense of community and therefore a sharing or bartering of resources, which ensures survival.
Why aren't we more altruistic?
This can be down to our surroundings. Someone who was born and bred in a tight knit community might be less suspicious of a random act of kindness than someone who was born in a massive city The anonymity of a large city might make people more suspicious of a random act of kindness. Because of a degree of mutual suspiciousness, people may be more hesitant about giving acts of kindness, and they will also be more suspicious about receiving it.
So how can we do more good?
An act of kindness can take as little as 5 seconds; whether it's holding the door for someone or sharing an umbrella with a stranger. We would all be so much happier if we paused and took notice of other people. I've been working with Interflora on spreading droplets of kindness. Here are 10 ideas to inspire you to go out and spread a little kindness.
- Share your umbrella with a stranger
- Treat your work colleagues to doughnuts today, just because
- Compliment a stranger on their outfit or shoes
- Listen to someone who has a problem
- Leave your favourite book on a train or bus for someone else to find and enjoy
- Reach out to a lonely person
- Bake a cake for a neighbour
- Offer up your seat on the train or bus
- Write a handwritten thank you note
- Donate your unwanted things to charity