Thanks to Sandy Smith from the Canberra times for this enlightening piece, originally published on 13/11/14.
As well as making others feel good, there is evidence that people who spread a little kindness are happier, healthier and more attractive than their mean-spirited peers says mental health professional.
With World Kindness Day being celebrated around the world today, what better excuse is there to muster up some good intentions and show kindness to others?
Clinical psychologist Jo Lamble from Sydney explains how carrying out random acts of kindness will make you happy.
“Research tells us that having a strong sense of meaning and giving to others is the best way to find happiness. Being kind lowers our stress levels, which means less cortisol running through our system, lower blood pressure, better sleep, and stronger immune systems”
Forget fame or fortune she says, “If you truly want health and happiness, try being altruistic. It’s a win-win situation. Helping out a friend or being kind to a stranger makes them feel good and you feel even better.”
Indeed, a US study found that people whose happiness was based on doing things for others were healthier than those whose happiness was based on consuming things.
“What this finding indicates, says Steven W Cole, a professor of medicine at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and senior author of the study, is that ‘our genes can tell the difference’ between a purpose-driven life and a shallower one, even when our conscious minds cannot” wrote Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times Magazine.
Kindness improves mental health, too, says Mehna Alacozy, mental health promotion officer at Mental Health Association NSW. “There is a lot of research that suggests there is a really strong correlation between people who are emotionally and behaviourally compassionate and their wellbeing, happiness and health.”
Meanwhile, new research claims that being kind can also make you more attractive to others.
In the study, published this month, Chinese researchers discovered the existence of the ‘halo effect’, whereby subjects were considered more attractive by others if they showed positive personality traits such as being good.
Fairall agrees that being kind makes her feel happier and healthier. “So often we get caught up in me and what is going on in my life. Sometimes the best way to take your mind off your own struggles or disappointments is to encourage or give praise to someone else in your life.”
Heartening individual gestures of kindness have been evident in the rapid rise of the global “suspended coffee” trend whereby strangers can prepay for a second “suspended coffee” or food for a person in need.
For inspiration on other ways to spread goodwill, World Kindness Australia has lists of kind acts ranging from small things such as dropping coins into a parking meter about to expire, or forgiving someone you were angry with, to greater acts of generosity such as handing out toys on the children’s ward of a local hospital or giving up smoking and donating the money you saved not buying cigarettes to a cancer charity.
With so much to gain from altruistic behaviour, the only question remains: “how kind will you be?”