Be Kind. Not just because it makes you look good, but primarily because it makes you ‘feel’ good.
Kindness: As We Understand It
I would understand kindness as helping another person, in any way you can, without expecting anything in return. Kindness is not defined in magnitude, but only the purity of intent. Be it giving tons of money to charities or helping an old person cross the street – it’s all equally important and significant.
Why Be Kind?
Be kind for the sake of being kind only. While the basic crux of being kind needs you to not expect anything out of it for yourself, there are actually umpteen benefits that kindness brings along as secondary gains for the giver. It is one of the most pleasurable things you can do and kindness is immensely therapeutic – mentally, physically and spiritually. Research shows that kindness is helpful for the receiver, the giver and the witness.
1. The Helper’s High
What is common between the person who built a hospital for the under-privileged, the person who just treated some sun-stroked kids with ice-cream and the one who offered to fill in for his ill colleague? They all feel great! This is termed as the helper’s high. It’s a feeling of well-being and elation, created subjectively in a person’s mind and physiologically in the person’s body when one has been kind. Studies show that kindness boosts production of serotonin and endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers. These create the ‘high’ feeling and also lead to better health. This initial rush is then followed by a longer-lasting period of improved emotional well-being.
2. Shift In Focus
Another simple way in which kindness helps is by providing a distraction. While we are busy helping someone else in their time of need, we tend to forget our own problems and often also experience a shift in perspective. For once, our own problems are not the end of the world. There is something more important to do. This blissful forgetfulness can be a blessing even it is temporary and short-lived. It can lift the burden that we unwillingly carry all the time and give us renewed strength and vitality. As explained in the article on rumination – this ‘timeout’ can also provide space for incubation which helps new ideas and solutions to emerge. Kindness often makes us realize that maybe our problems are not the biggest perils on the planet and perhaps it’s time to count our blessings instead
3. Some Physical Health Benefits:
i) Kindness results in increase in energy levels and a greater sense of calmness and relaxation.
ii) It reduces stress and can be a miracle drug for stress-induced diseases such as insomnia, hyper-tension, asthma, depression etc.
iii) It boosts the immune system; increases longevity and can even lead to speedier recovery from surgery.
iv) A reduction in awareness and intensity of pain is another common effect.
4. Some Mental Health Benefits:
i) Being kind enhances self-esteem, optimism, sense of worthiness and calmness.
ii) It helps you feel connected to the opposite person, yourself and society – thereby reducing feelings of alienation and loneliness.
iii) Also in a world frequently marred with tragedies – both natural and man-made – the ability to affect someone positively, reduces the sense of helplessness and hopelessness that most of us feel at some level. Kindness has the potential to heal not just individuals but our entire traumatized society.
iv) The simplest and smallest acts of kindness can restore faith in humanity and be just that flicker of light at the end of the tunnel which makes one carry on.
Kindness has ripple effects and encourages all that have been touched – the giver, the receiver and the witness to be kind. Such ripples are being created by one social movement called Your Turn Now (YTN).
“Your turn now” (YTN) inspires and teaches by example alone, it encourages kindness through simple deeds, the only price of which is the simple promise that you will pass on the gift of compassion you’ve so generously and selflessly been given.
Rushab Turakhia – the creator of YTN poses a simple question: “have you been kind today?” He is gently pushing people to be kind through a simple yet powerful little magic card. YTN encourages people to be kind in whichever way possible and then give them this card to remind and encourage them to pass on this kindness to others.
Have you come across this yet?
This article can perhaps be summed in one sentence: “When you are good to others, you are best to yourself.” – Benjamin Franklin.
Post contributed by: Mahima Gupta (Psychologist, Inner Space, 2010-2012)
5 thoughts on “KINDNESS: MORALITY OR A WAY TO MENTAL HEALTH?”
Morico: I do not think we intended to treat the question of morality. The intention however was to deal with kindness in a way that for a change does not deal with only the moral aspect. I remember being taught kindness, honesty and so on in my 4th grade moral science class :). We felt it was important to highlight its psychological benefits.
@esteemed site-thank you, we try.
@Superficial article- naah I don’t think so 🙂
Crystal: I am glad you dropped by 🙂
Anawim: I quite agree that we have come to see suffering as something unwanted and are failing to co-exist with it as a part of life. With regard to the next point, however, I am unable to see too much of a difference between kindness and love. I might even put both under the larger umbrella of compassion 🙂
The question of morality is not treated then why is it in the title of the article?
I’M SURPRISED SUCH SUPERFICIAL ARTICLES ARE ON YOUR ESTEEMED SITE!
Many false expectations are centered in the exaltation of kindness over love. Generally this is manifest in the fact that suffering of any kind is seen as obnoxious and even the cause for legal action. It has also led to our demands for comfort to go on steroids. Demand for euthanasia flow from this sort of thinking as well.
kindness is an important and necessary virtue but it is necessary to subsume kindness under love.
My friend referred me to your blog, so I thought I’d check it out. Very interesting material, will be back for more!