Why Kindness Matters and is Good for you
Loving-kindness and compassion are the basis for wise, powerful, sometimes gentle, and sometimes fierce actions that can really make a difference – in our own lives and those of others.
– Sharon Salzberg
No wonder Sharon Salzberg is one of America’s leading meditation teachers and spirituality writers. What she says covers the entire basis anyone ever needs to know as to why kindness costs nothing, brings joy, does as much for the giver as the receiver and can change society bringing unexpected rewards.
I have worked with all kinds of people, from celebrities and the powerful to those whose daily life is filled with pain and struggle not knowing where the next meal will come from or if there will be anyone to share it with. Money may give you choices but it surely can’t buy you happiness. We all know this to be true, otherwise why are so many of the rich and powerful in and out of rehabilitation centres, take their own lives and are often unbearable to be around?
As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Now there’s another woman I admire for her wisdom and heart.
Kindness can be a smile across a room to someone you see feels nervous and out of place, it can mean a few minutes of your time to talk to the guy who lives on the street that is invisible to the average passersby. It can mean a practical helping hand or mentoring someone through college or their career. In fact the act of kindness – whether it’s just a smile, a word or when you do something practical is all about taking action and when you do, something wonderful happens.
Perhaps the hardest type of kindness is being kind to yourself – have you noticed how much more forgiving we are to others and yet so unforgiving of ourselves. In Psychology we call this the ‘special person syndrome’. If it’s o.k. for another then why do you see yourself as being so special it isn’t for you?
Those who work together using their kindness to co-operate for the well-being of others bring about major changes. Kindness does not mean you cannot fight your corner and be assertive. Have you ever seen a Lioness fight to protect her cub – you wouldn’t want to stay around! Psychologists, Sociologists and academics say that we do this to ensure the survival of our family line and communities being programmed into our genes.
Kindness, gratitude and compassion are also good for your mental and physical health. Sonya Lyubomirsky from the University of California has been able to demonstrate through her research that repeated acts of kindness make you happier. Small random acts of kindness make you feel good about yourself and individuals find they often get something unexpected back in return. You find yourself gaining friends or getting an email one day from someone who remembers you and wants to offer you a job. You may even have forgotten the name of the person but they have not forgotten you. You also get a sense of personal satisfaction which many describe as a greater gift than the act is for the other person.
The happier you are the better your immune system and your ability to withstand stress. Kindness is good for you emotionally and psychologically and may be better than all the vitamin pills you can take. One study stated that there was a strong relationship between the wellbeing, happiness and health of people who are kind. There are many more studies that demonstrate this relationship including the lowering of rates of depression. No one can deny that kindness is good for you.
Catherine Ryan Hide in her book ‘Pay it Forward’ wrote about the story of an unhappy schoolboy who decided to do a good deed for those he came into contact with only asking that the person concerned did a good deed for someone else. The book was made into a film. What no one expected was that people who had read the book and seen the film started doing the same thing.
Perhaps the act of being kind (as in pay it forward) is conditional but once the joys and rewards associated with this way of being are felt it becomes like a welcome habit with benefits.
Businesses have also found that kindness pays. You might be in business to make money but you make money from people. Some have said that good customer care has nothing to do with kindness. However, you can recruit individuals and train them to smile and say ‘have a nice day’ but you cannot train them to mean or feel it or go the extra mile to help someone.
I have read about businesses such as Disney World who made millions of dollars because it believes in recruiting people who gain personal meaning and satisfaction from being kind and helpful. This strategy certainly works. Those of us British who have visited Disney World have been amazed at how nothing seems too much to ask and how our whole experience is enhanced because of the way we are treated. Not surprisingly we go back again and again.
Kindness, love and compassion are what bring meaning to life and I, for one, am grateful for every gesture made towards me and even more so for every gesture I have shown towards others.