When we are kind, we demonstrate a fundamental decency towards others which can make them feel valued, comforted or understood, and which can improve their mood long after the goodwill gesture has been made. And psychologically, when someone is kind to us, we feel not only supported or valued but also inspired to be kind to others in an exquisite ripple effect. It really is as though kindness is catching! I set up The Kindness Club in 2014 to encourage random acts of kindness, because I believe that kindness is a fabulous force for improved wellbeing and positive change.
Recently, I've been doing some fascinating research with DoubleTree by Hilton and The School of Life, into how kindness generates more kindness, and the value kindness brings to society as a whole; they've even created a report about it. This research shows that 92% of people in Britain perform at least one act of kindness per week and that, like me, over three quarters of people in Britain (76%) believe there is scope for even more kindness in the world. The tumultuous events in the UK during the past two weeks have shaken many people's sense of identify and security, so I believe there is now an even greater need to us to be kinder to others.
Kind gestures can be small or thoughtful and they don't have to cost a bean. I live in central London near busy Victoria station, and I can often be found pausing in my journey to help tourists navigate their way to various London landmarks. This action takes a minute of my time, costs nothing whatsoever, yet extends to these strangers a warm welcome to my city. If I was in their shoes, I'd want someone to detect wordlessly my confusion or exasperation and lend a kind, helping hand. Kindness when travelling can often be doubly powerful because it comes from strangers responding graciously to our vulnerability. The ripples of kindness travel far.
DoubleTree by Hilton gives a warm chocolate-chip cookie to all guests worldwide upon arrival; an act of hospitality that sets the tone for a traveler's entire stay in the hotel. Similarly, they say that the shortest distance between two people is a smile. It costs nothing to smile at a stranger and give out positive energy. Further research shows that being kind to others makes us feel more positive about the world, which in turn can help us achieve our goals or even improve our physical health.
Thankfully kindness can be taught. The School of Life is running a series of 'Mastering the Art of Kindness' classes this summer in London, Liverpool and Manchester (check out www.schooloflife.co.uk for details). By looking at different components of kindness, such as open-mindedness, empathy, generosity, and constancy, the classes will explore and identify ways we can be more kind. It can be about doing something, it could be about being generous with our time, or even being kind in spirit: not honking our horn at that driver ahead who may be lost or even grieving, is to transcend the pressures of everyday life and offer kindness by being non-judgemental.
We all value kindness. Wherever we are in the world, kindness is a gesture that's understood and welcomed as part of our common humanity. And because the research shows that nearly all of us are kinder to others after someone is first kind to us, one random act of kindness has the potential to change the world. What kind gesture will you make today?