Being kind = being happy
My dad was an example of a happy guy who performed small acts of kindness as easily as he took a breath. If he had flowers from his garden, he plucked them, put them in a jelly jar, and took them to a neighbor. Extra blackberries? He’d throw together a country cobbler and take them a shut-in from church. If he woke up at 4:00 a.m., he’d jot a handwritten note to one of his relatives living far away.
He was the most contented man I’ve ever known.
I learned from his example and realize that his happiness was caused by his upbringing, his faith, and his genetic code. But it was also created by the self-perpetuating cycle of goodness: By being kind to someone else, you create joy in yourself.
Science proves it:
“Kindness is linked inextricably to happiness and contentment — at both psychological and spiritual levels…Happy people were kinder than people who were not happy…one’s sense of happiness increased by the simple act of counting the number of one’s acts of kindness. Counting one’s acts of kindness also led happy people to become more kind and grateful.”
Small acts of kindness cost nothing, boost someone else’s spirits, and improve our own well-being. Why wouldn’t we perform them?
Four easy acts of kindness to perform today to improve the world and ourselves:
Give someone a sincere compliment
If we truly mean what we say, the compliment will boost the recipient’s spirits, a fact supported by research on the power of compliments:
“…a compliment can enhance performance, social interaction, positivity in relationships and increase general happiness.”
Professor Nick Haslam, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne, suggests that more benefits occur when giving a compliment than when receiving one.
“By giving compliments you can make interactions more enjoyable, bring out reciprocating warmth from others, and create a favourable impression in their eyes.”
Compliments cost us nothing to give and take two seconds. Nothing to lose from this one small, kind act.
Help someone out while driving
Improve traffic flow and lower blood pressure at the same time when you drive generously. Let someone merge from an off-ramp during rush hours. Slow down to allow someone to cut into your lane. Don’t tailgate, make angry gestures, or scream out the window. Road rage is bad for you. Patient, generous driving is good for you. Studies back this up. Aggressive drivers suffered from high blood pressure up to six years after road stress, but kind drivers eased stress for everyone.
Kind and considerate drivers had the greatest effect on fellow drivers, encouraging others to behave well, themselves. They also reduced the drivers’ stress levels.
Lift someone with chalk art
Spread positivity by resorting to a childhood pastime: Chalk art. Dozens of stories have been written about how spirits are being buoyed by messages and drawings written in chalk on walkways and driveways. Get a box of thick sidewalk chalk to keep in your car and surprise someone with a message.
Chelsea Ritter-Soronen, the creator of ChalkRiot, says that chalk art is “a brilliant tool for messaging,” and a fantastic way to
- support front-line workers
- encourage communities
- boost sales
- make comments, jokes, and suggestions beauty
- uplift spirits
The 2 minutes taken out of the day to etch a colorful message will bring someone hours of joy. A simple chalk drawing may be just the lift a person needs to cope with the day.
Comfort someone with lovin’ from the oven
Have you heard about the rise in home-baking? You butter believe it. People are finding comfort and spreading joy by whipping up tasty treats.
The kind act of giving food to others is something we do as a culture, most notably when someone dies. It’s a gift of nourishment and comfort that takes the place of words. Home baking has been on the rise (pun intended) during our quarantine days, but it has always been an accepted act of kindness and one that brings solace to those in pain.
But like other acts of kindness, it’s not just the recipients who benefit; it’s the givers. In this case, it’s the bakers who get the boost.
“Baking for others can increase a feeling of wellbeing, contribute to stress relief and make you feel like you’ve done something good for the world, which perhaps increases your meaning in life and connection with other people. Donna Pincus
Cookies for colleagues. Rolls for roommates. Bread for brothers. Nougats for neighbors. Lovin’ from the oven feeds our bodies and our souls.
Manufacture your own feel-good — totally legal — drugs by being kind
Did you know that performing acts of kindness increases four natural substances that improve how we feel? First, there’s oxytocin. Oxytocin is called the “love hormone.” It’s the feel-good biochemical produced when we’re intimate with someone, and it spikes after doing a good deed.
Being kind to others also creates a substance called dopamine, a chemical produced by the brain. Known as the “helper’s high,” dopamine produces a feeling of euphoria.
Seratonin is also generated by kindness toward others. This biochemical helps regulate moods and is called the “happy chemical,” contributing to a sense of wellbeing.
Finally, when we’re helpful to others, our bodies produce an endorphin-like biochemical called substance P that helps relieve pain, says Dr. Waguih William IsHak of Cedars-Sinai.
Love, euphoria, happiness, and pain relief — all benefits of doing good for others. Why wouldn’t we be kind?
Practice makes perfect
Kindness is a habit. The more we do it, the more it benefits us. The oxytocin boost from one gesture only lasts 3–4 minutes. That’s better than nothing, but doing more kind acts gives us more “highs.” Practicing kindness every day brings a contentment and joy to life that we don’t have to search for. It just comes with goodness.
Daddy was pretty smart. He knew that it cost nothing to make the world better by being continually kind to others, generating an internal joy that most people only dream about.
If you appreciated this, you might enjoy these:
How To Use Porch Sitting to Connect With Others
“Without her front porch, I would never have known she existed.”
Melissa Gouty’s manuscript, The Magic of Ordinary, about growing up in the 1960s with “Daddy,” is currently looking for an agent. She hopes the current of joy that runs through it will attract one.