Living longer, improving health and feeling happier. What if the secret to a better life all boiled down to one thing; kindness?
Being kind to others has a ripple effect on our lives that lasts beyond a good feeling in the moment. Research published in the Journal of Social Psychology found that performing acts of kindness over the course of seven days improved the overall happiness of study participants.
The positive effects of kindness also show up in your body. A study published in The Gerontologist found volunteers had a lower risk of high blood glucose and a lower risk of inflammation, an instigator in a number of chronic diseases. A separate study published in Psychology and Aging showed that people who volunteer have a 24% lower risk of early death.
As Samaritan celebrates the LGBTQ community this month, we recognize that kindness is a benefit to everyone in the community. So, what is kindness, exactly?
Categories of Kindness
While there are lots of things that could fall under the heading of “kind,” it can help to think about it in the following broad groups:
We haven’t always experienced what someone else is going through, but we can imagine what it would feel like and how we would want to be treated in that circumstance. That’s empathy.
There are some experiences where it’s easier to empathize, like losing a child or having your house burn down, but sometimes empathy is harder. This is especially true if the person we’re trying to have empathy for comes from a different background or has opinions that are counter to your own. In these circumstances don’t expect to agree, but adopting a mindset of visualizing yourself in their shoes can help exercise your empathy muscles.
It’s not just a feeling – kindness is an action that helps others. Listening to a friend going through a hard time, helping a stranger who dropped all their change in the check-out line, or picking up trash in the neighborhood on your evening walk are all small acts of kindness.
Generosity requires looking beyond yourself to see the needs of others, and then helping to meet that need if you are able. Sometimes we think of generosity as grandiose, but you can be generous in small ways as well. You can volunteer in your free time, use your expertise to help others or donate money to a worthy cause.
Kindness Is Contagious
Helping someone else usually feels good for you and for those you are helping, but those actions can extend even further.
A meta-analysis published in the Psychological Bulletin examined decades of research and found that when people see kindness in their community, they were more likely to repeat another kindness for others.
Practicing kindness only improves the way we connect in our community. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Help us spread kindness and respect in health care. Learn more about the LGBTQIA2S+ advisory council to cultivate an inclusive, patient-centered environment.