Kindness really can create a better world
Guest post by Dr. Jessica J. Cameron
Professor, Department of Psychology at University of Manitoba
Buying a cup of coffee for a stranger. Smiling at the cashier. Stopping to help someone with a flat tire. Listening to a friend in distress. Assuming a spouse is late because of forces beyond their control. These are all acts of kindness. Some might come automatically to us and others might take more conscious effort. But all of these acts of kindness, whether they are with strangers or with our loved ones, have a positive impact. Here’s the three top ways that kindness makes a difference in our lives.
Not only does receiving acts of kindness boost mood and reduces our physiological stress response, but meets our basic human needs to feel secure. Because humans are social animals, we have a basic need to feel like others will be responsive in times of need. When people are kind to us, they reassure us that someone will be there if we need it. Such acts of kindness, then, provide a foundation for this sense of security. When our need to feel secure is met, we not only feel better and experience better psychological well-being, but we are able to pursue other important goals with confidence.
Helping other people boosts psychological well-being. People who volunteer, help others, and are generally altruistic, experience boosts in their life satisfaction and overall mood. Helping someone else can be remarkably rewarding. Being kind to others reassures us that we matter: We can do something that makes someone else feel better. In doing so, we can learn that our actions can have a positive impact on others and this builds a more positive sense of self.
When a stranger pays it forward or a friend stops to comfort us when we are down, we are reassured that other people are “looking out for us.” This sense of belonging should increase if people spread kindness. With recent reports on increasing loneliness and its negative consequences for both psychological and physiological health, we should be striving towards building communities wherein people express their connection to others with kindness. Whether these acts of kindness are random (with strangers) or personal (with loved ones), helping others, in any way, should remind all of us of our part within our community and our role in others’ lives.