A time to be kind
It is unprecedented times.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has made certain people crazy, stockpiling essentials for themselves whilst leaving those in need with nothing.
It’s during times like these that we must realise the only way to battle humanitarian crises is together.
I for one will be making sure I do everything I can to help those in need, not just for them, but also for me.
Just last month people were posting #bekind on social media after the tragic death of TV presenter Caroline Flack, now they are disregarding others in order to build toilet roll castles and sell hand sanitizer at twice the price.
If there is a time to be kind, it is now.
What are random acts of kindness?
A random act of kindness is a selfless act, of any scale, that is given unexpectedly, without prompt and with no ulterior motive.
1. A selfless act with no ulterior motive
The kind act must be given without expecting anything tangible in return.
I agree that it’s pretty much impossible for any act of kindness to be totally selfless because we are programmed for survival, which means we only act in our best interests.
You will receive some benefit; however, you can certainly distinguish a random act of kindness from a bride, barter or deal.
When attempting our suggested random acts of kindness, try doing them for the unselfish advantages listed below, not for power, wealth or persuasion.
2. Of any scale
The magnitude of the act is not important.
Large or small, kindness is kindness.
3. Unexpected and without prompt
The kind act should be totally spontaneous. Don’t commit to it because someone hinted, suggested or forced you to do it.
The person receiving kindness should be completely unaware of what’s coming.
Trust me, the look of surprise mixed with appreciation if both fulfilling and funny.
9 benefits of random acts of kindness
Although the very definition of a random act of kindness excludes ulterior motives, the survival instinct of human beings makes us do things for our best interest.
We are programmed to survive and thrive, and our brains think that the only way to do that is if we look after number one.
Although it is impossible for an act of kindness to be completely selfless, it should be as selfless as possible.
There are many benefits that come from being kind but, in my opinion, these are the ones that you should put before all others…
1. Psychological benefits and happiness – the helper’s high
For anyone who has ever been kind (hopefully everyone), this advantage should be the most relatable.
Helping people, seeing a smile on their face and feeling their appreciation automatically makes you happy, spirited and mentally vibrant.
It’s even got a name – the ‘helper’s high.’
The helper’s high is based on the theory that acts of kindness release endorphins in the brain that provide a mild version of a morphine high.
Researchers at the University of Oregon found that voluntary giving increased activation of the pleasure receptors in the brain so much that they could “predict how much money people [would be] willing to give” when they chose to donate.
This is backed up by other research from the National Institutes of Health and Emory University, where brain scans showed that the same areas of the brain activated when thinking about giving money to a charity as they did in response to food or sex (pleasure).
If serving the world, assisting your neighbours, volunteering or donating is as good as food or sex, I’m in!
2. Psychological benefits and happiness – Perspective and meaning
Another key benefit of partaking in random acts of kindness is that it puts life into perspective.
The very fact that you can do something for someone else, regardless of your financial position or social status makes you realise that there is more to life than these simulated hierarchical markers.
When we met blind Dave Heeley on The Black Country Buddhas Podcast, he made it apparent that his perseverance was due to his family and the work he does for disadvantaged children.
This is a guy who is more disadvantaged than anyone I know, yet it is kindness, love and charity that fills his life with meaning and perspective.
Kindness is his “why,” why can’t it be yours?
3. Psychological benefits and happiness – gratitude
Kindness and gratitude come hand in hand.
Participating in selfless acts, and being aware of people in need, naturally heightens your own sense of good fortune.
It promotes empathy, compassion and connection with others – all leading to further feelings of gratefulness and contentment.
I have recently realised that I feel most happy when giving rather than receiving.
My daily life includes helping, advising and teaching (as well as learning) which certainly helps me to feel more connected to others and grateful for the people in my life.
Kindness is essential in strengthening my sense of community and belonging.
A study published in 2007, found that happy people were kinder than those who were not happy, and that simply counting the number of acts of kindness they performed in a day increased their sense of happiness, led them to become even more kind and boosted their levels of gratefulness.
Be grateful for what you have, but also for what you can give.
4. Physiological benefits – reduced stress
The physiological benefits of kindness are very closely linked to the psychological benefits.
The hormones that our brain instructs our bodies to release, when being kind, has a beneficial impact on our cortisol (stress) levels, which then has a cascading effect on vital health markers like blood pressure, heart rate, inflammation and tension.
The ‘helper’s high’ you get when performing an act of kindness is often linked to the release of oxytocin (the ‘cuddle’ or ‘love’ hormone).
Studies have shown that oxytocin promotes anti-stress and restoration capabilities that heal the body – it increases pain thresholds, reduces anxiety and cortisol levels, and stimulates various types of positive social interaction.
Oxytocin is also credited with the ability to release nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels, reduces blood pressure and helps with blood flow.
Hmmmm, where else have I come across dilated blood vessels before?…
Disclaimer – A lot of the studies I found that proved oxytocin increases nitric oxide were performed on rats. I would welcome any further insight into human-based studies in the comments box below.
Experiments on rats have also shown a strong link between oxytocin and the activity of the vagus nerve, which regulates a vast range of crucial functions within your central nervous system, including your heart rate.
Disregarding the science for a second, just think how you feel when you’re kind.
Are you tense and stresses or are you calm and light-hearted?
Says it all really doesn’t it?
Control your kindness ➡️ control your tension ➡️ control your life.
5. Physiological benefits – increase in energy
As well as oxytocin, kindness also induces the release of serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone), which plays a key role in modulating your mood and overall sense of wellbeing.
In my experience, your mental energy peaks when you feel happy and vibrant – again, it’s part of the ‘helper’s high.’
Christine L. Carter Ph.D., a Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley, notes that almost 50 percent of participants in one study reported “feeling stronger and having more energy after helping others, with reports of greater feelings of calmness and enhanced self-esteem also predominant.”
Both science and logic suggest that if you feel less stressed, happier and healthier, after a random act of kindness, you’re bound to benefit from an increase in energy.
6. Physiological benefits – improved cognitive performance
Improved cognitive performance, or at least not cognitive deterioration, is a benefit closely linked to increased energy and reduced stress.
Your brain uses more energy than any other human organ, accounting for up to 20 percent of your body’s total usage, so it seems reasonable to me to assume that if you feel more energetic from a random act of kindness, the performance of your brain is going to improve.
As for, preserving cognitive performance – chronic stress is experienced when the body overproduces cortisol to an unbalanced level.
High levels of cortisol, for prolonged periods, can wear down the brain’s ability to function and therefore impair your thinking power.
Here are just a few detrimental effects of chronic stress on the brain:
- Disrupted synapse regulation (loss of sociability and the avoidance of interaction),
- Functional impairment,
- Destruction of brain cells, and
- Reduction in brain size.
Being kind seems like a small price to pay in order to fight these impairments, improve your cognitive performance and live a happier, healthier life.
For an insight into what foods will improve the health of your brain
7. Physiological benefits – More likely to live a longer and more satisfied life
Studies are now starting to show that happiness, optimism and positivity are key factors when it comes to longevity of life and thwarting disease.
According to Blue Zone research – which is dedicated to identifying common components of the world’s longest-lived cultures – belonging, family and feeling part of a tribe are the cornerstones of those living the longest.
Without wanting to plagiarise their work, search ‘blue zones pyramid’ in Google.
Kindness breads community, belonging and family, so if these things do make you live longer, why not to commit to more random acts of kindness?
Even if it doesn’t make you live longer, there’s no doubt it makes you feel better and gives your life purpose, so what have you got to lose?
The Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, overseen by Harvard University researchers, found that those who gave contributions of time or money were “42 percent more likely to be happy” than those who didn’t.
Live longer. Be happier.
8. Pave the way for future generations
It doesn’t seem like many people realise this given the recent coronavirus supermarket sweep, but we are the example for future generations.
Teaching our youngers to be givers of kindness will reduce bullying, increase friendships and ensure that the leaders of tomorrow will lead with compassion, empathy and generosity.
Let’s teach them to be better people.
9. Improve society
Future generations are not the only ones who will benefit from kindness, present ones will too, especially if you can encourage people to ‘pay it forward.’
‘Pay it forward’ is a movement that inspires the beneficiary of a good deed to repay the kindness to others instead of to the original provider.
This creates a cascade of kindness and cooperation throughout an entire social network.
Kindness and cooperation cultivates ideas, love and support within communities which will allow humanity to flourish well into the future.
Random acts of kindness are not only good for you, or the recipient, they are good for everyone.
The most powerful way to increase your short-term happiness, energy and perspective is through performing random acts of kindness.
Science also suggests that such acts have long-term benefits on the quality and quantity of your life too.
Be kind because it is good for you, but also do it because you care.
Care for younger generations, care for those around you and care for the future of our planet.
You can make a difference, so stop hogging the toilet roll.