Healthy Living,  Personal Development

Kindness to Others is the Best Self-Care

So there I was … stuck on the phone with my insurance billing department.  AGAIN.  Co-parenting has many challenging aspects and today it was resolving insurance information.  All I wanted to do was simply pay the bill and 45 minutes later, it still hadn’t happened.  To make matters worse, the customer service woman talked slower than anyone I had encountered in my life.  She also put me on hold multiple times because she clearly didn’t know how to help me.  As I lamented giving up my lunch to make this call, I could feel my blood pressure and frustration rising by the second.  In that moment, kindness was the furthest thing from my mind.

We are faced with countless opportunities to show kindness on a daily basis.  But how many times do we actually take advantage of those opportunities?  I will be the first to admit that it can be so tough to choose kindness over sarcasm, negativity, or a false sense of self-importance.  It seems much more gratifying to send a message about how we’ve been wronged by responding with barbs of hostility.  But is it really more gratifying?  And how do we show kindness in those moments of intense frustration?  Kindness has been on my heart recently and I wanted to share my thoughts (and the research!) on the topic.  You may be pleasantly surprised by my findings!

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Maya Angelou

What is Kindness?

Depending upon who you ask, the definition of kindness varies.  At its core, kindness is basic care and consideration for other people.  Kindness is a quality which is valued by cultures throughout the world and includes the idea of helping another person without expectation of reciprocation.  Multiple experiments at Yale University have even found it a quality naturally occurring in humans.  Great!  So we are born with the ability to be kind to others but what exactly does this look like?

There are potentially billions of ways to act it out, some more obvious than others.  It may include sending a text of encouragement to a friend.  You could bake cookies for your neighbor or for a fundraiser.  Or you could give your bestie a compliment.  These are fairly obvious ways to be kind but there are also tougher situations which deserve kindness.  You’ve been on the phone with customer service for 45 minutes, avoid snarky comments the entire time, and even tell the agent to have a nice day at the end of the call.  And you genuinely meant it.  The barista at your favorite coffee shop screws up your order and you tip them extra despite the mistake.  I think you can easily come up with additional situations.  But why should we choose kindness when it’s so tough?

Why Choose Kindness?

Because it’s good for us.  Wait … what??  It’s true – more and more research is going into the impact of being kind and the results are promising.  Being kind to others has been shown to improve energy and self-worth while decreasing feelings of depression.  It also has the potential to increase happiness and even one’s life span.  Helping another person has been shown to increase a chemical in the brain called serotonin which is associated with pleasure, a phenomenon called the “helper’s high.”  Displaying kindness additionally has been correlated with lowering blood pressure.  If you don’t believe me, check out this page from Dartmouth University to confirm for yourself.

The “helper’s high” has been the subject of extensive study recently.  This phenomenon has been shown to counteract the body’s stress response and to improve immunity.  Kindness also assists in decreasing negative feelings such as bitterness and jealousy.  The field of social psychology has also noted protective features of kindness in the development of relationships.  It’s amazing to me that we are taught to be kind from a young age but it actually has physical impacts even beyond those of being considered “kind” by one’s peers.  Truly incredible!

How Can We Choose Kindness?

Great question!  I wish I had an easy answer for this one but the truth is that it can be very tough sometimes!  The thought process which has helped me the most is that everyone is battling something and I have no idea what it is.  The customer service agent I dealt with may have a grandchild fighting cancer.  The barista may be preoccupied with worrying about how she’s going to pay rent.  Or the driver who just cut you off in traffic may be racing to say goodbye to his father who is on hospice before it’s too late.  In any given moment, you have no idea what someone is dealing with and you would most likely not want to be in their shoes.  This is the reason that I choose kindness.

In today’s world, being kind is the path less chosen.  Making this choice requires me to dig deep and to be a better person one day at a time.  I am far from perfect and willingly admit that I choose to be unkind more than I’d like.  It’s so easy to forget to give others grace and to detach myself from the situation when it doesn’t really matter anyway.  Like getting the wrong coffee or spending 45 minutes on the phone with a complete stranger.  Neither of these will dramatically impact my life in any meaningful way.  I also forget to embrace the journey and relinquish control of the results.  I can put in the work but at the end of the day, the results aren’t really up to me anyway.  The only thing I can control is my own actions and how I treat those around me.

It’s Your Turn

Think back to the last time you talked about someone behind their back or made a snide remark to a sales person.  How did it make you feel?  Now think back to the last time you gave a complete stranger a compliment or let someone in front of you when the line at Wal-Mart was super long, you were tired, and the kids were screaming.  Which one felt better?  I can’t answer for you, but I feel way better when I do something spontaneously nice or when I choose to put someone else’s needs above my own.

Kindness is a choice and we can choose compassion to ourselves and others countless times each day.  You may not be able to solve someone’s most pressing and heart-breaking problem, but you can make sure that you leave a positive imprint on their lives.  You can be the sunshine that the world desperately needs right now.  There’s so much negativity out there – why add to it?  I challenge you (and myself!) to choose kindness because you’ll never regret making someone feel great about themselves!

 

20 Comments

  • Marianne Daw

    I think kindness is one of the greatest assests one can have after love. It takes so little and means so much. I had someone tell me that their mother said not to think kind, nice, complimentary things, but to say them. I try to share kindness and kind comments whenever I can, it makes a person’s day. I know it makes mine when someone shares kindness with me.

    • Amanda Bradley

      Great advice (as always!!). Love the fact that she encouraged her kids to act it out instead of only thinking it. Wonderful!! Hope you have a great day Marianne!! 🙂

  • Jaclyn

    Kindness is something my entire family is working on. Sometimes it is easier to be kind to a stranger than to our own sibling, friend, spouse, etc!

    • Amanda Bradley

      Hi Jaclyn! I completely agree with you!! Kindness is an area I’m constantly working on, especially with my loved ones because it doesn’t always come naturally. However, if consistent with it, the rewards are huge! Better relationships, better blood pressure, and less depression – what’s not to like about that?! Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment!! 🙂

  • Lisa Thomas

    I talk about this a lot with my two year old. You can talk as much as you want, but you honestly do have to be the example to them. I try my hardest not to show frustration, but instead, kindness. Great message.

    • Amanda Bradley

      Hi Lisa!! Yes – I completely agree that it’s a challenge!! And I think it’s a great opportunity for us to show them how being kind, even when challenging, is the right way to go. Thank you so much for commenting!! 🙂

  • Cayla

    This is the best post I’ve read today! Showing kindness to other is so important, and is so needed (especially in society today). Thank you for sharing your heart and those precious pictures!

    • Amanda Bradley

      Hi Cayla! I totally agree that it’s becoming a lost art. Thank you so much for commenting and stopping by!! 🙂

  • Beth

    Kindness is really one of the best qualities a person can have. I have five kids, and although they have some significant accomplishments in school and their careers, the thing that I’m the proudest of is how compassionate and caring they are.

    • Amanda Bradley

      Hi Beth!! I completely agree! There are so many other skills which are less important and can be easily learned but kindness is important from day one. Good for you for raising kind little ones!! 🙂

  • Bailey

    This is one of the best things I’ve seen on the internet in quite awhile. Kindness to others, love for others, is crucial to our own mental well-being. Thank you for highlighting that.

    • Amanda Bradley

      Hi Bailey! There are a few studies out there which point to volunteering as leading to longer and fuller lives. Helping others helps us as well in quite amazing ways! Thank you so much for the compliment and for stopping by!! 🙂

  • Helena

    Loved your post! My husband sometimes claims I am ‘too kind’, but I don’t think there is such a thing, so I am still trying to improve on being kind ever day.

    • Amanda Bradley

      Hi Helena!! Good for you!! You’ll never regret being kind to someone 🙂 thank you so much for commenting!!

  • Kesi

    I loved reading this! Kindness is always what feels the best, though sometimes I fall short of this.. Right now I am trying to come up with ways to be kind to my friends… I feel like I get so caught up in my life, I don’t always let them know how much I really appreciate them. Thanks for sharing.

    • Amanda Bradley

      Hi Kesi! Being kind can definitely be a struggle! I agree that in the busyness of being a mama, it’s tough to keep up with others. As a fellow busy mom, I get it when other moms cancel plans or don’t stay in touch as much as I’d like. It’s a challenging season of life and sometimes we need to allocate energy where it’s most needed – with our family. Thank you so much for commenting!! 🙂

    • Amanda Bradley

      Yes – I’m so happy that we are starting to research the benefits as well!! Thank you so much for commenting!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.