Kindness and “niceness” are often considered interchangeable, but kindness goes deeper. Its layers include generosity, compassion, and empathy. When challenged by an often-cruel world, kindness also takes significant effort and emotional strength. It’s a choice that can take many forms. Why is it important? Here are ten reasons:
#1 Kindness is associated with well-being
Researchers have studied kindness and its effects for many years. Studies consistently show that kindness is linked to better health and an increased sense of well-being. In 2020, research in Psychological Bulletin examined 201 studies of behaviors driven by things like trust, cooperation, and compassion. They found a “small and significant” connection to better physical and mental health. Interestingly, there were more well-being benefits linked to “informal helping” or spontaneous acts of kindness.
#2 Kindness lowers your stress
When we talk about stress, we have to talk about cortisol. This is known as the “stress hormone” In truly stressful situations, it’s necessary. It prepares our bodies for survival in the form of flight or fight. However, when we find ourselves in consistently stressful situations and can’t leave, that stress hormone has negative effects. Kindness has been shown to help reduce levels of cortisol and return our bodies to a more balanced, relaxed state.
#3 Kindness boosts self-esteem
When people exhibit kindness towards others, there’s a bounce-back effect. It’s often called “the helper’s high.” Being kind to people floods you with positive, happy feelings about yourself. This increases your self-esteem, which is an important part of remaining optimistic and productive in your life. Studies show that kindness towards strangers has a bigger effect on self-esteem than kindness towards friends and family.
#4 Kindness boosts productivity
Speaking of being productive, work environments where kindness is a priority get more work done! This goes against the common idea that people need “tough love” to achieve success. Too often, “tough love” is just code for a toxic, domineering environment. In one study that analyzed over 3,500 businesses and 50,000 individuals, behaviors like giving praise were linked to better productivity and lower turnover. Considering how kindness improves a person’s well-being, it makes sense that it would have positive impacts on a work environment.
#5 Kindness creates better leaders
You don’t have to look far to find research supporting kindness and empathy as essential traits for a good leader. Good leaders have strong social connections and a good understanding of peoples’ emotions. They also know how important it is to treat people with dignity and respect. In turn, people trust and respect them and will remain loyal.
#6 Kindness helps kids do better in school
Just like kindness improves a work environment, kindness also has positive effects on schools. When the adults in a school encourage traits like empathy and generosity, it can combat the presence of bullying. Kids also feel safer, more confident, and better equipped to form important social connections.
#7 Kindness sets kids up for a good future
What happens to kids in their younger years has a huge effect on their futures. When kids grow up in environments where kindness is common, they’re more likely to avoid problems like drug use and prison time later in life. When kids show kindness, they enjoy many benefits, such as reduced aggression and fewer anti-social behaviors. Research shows that if a kid focuses their kindness mostly on friends, they don’t see as much positive impact than when they’re more helpful to family and strangers.
Note: Factors like family income still remain an essential predictor of a kid’s future.
#8 Kindness is good for romantic relationships
When couples show empathy, compassion, and generosity towards each other, they are significantly more likely to stay together (and stay happy) than if kindness isn’t present. Along with emotional stability, kindness is the most significant predictor of happiness within a marriage. For struggling couples, prioritizing acts of kindness and identifying how to make a partner feel loved and understood can strengthen communication and feelings of connection.
#9 Kindness towards self is essential to a good life
Kindness towards self (often known as self-compassion) is as important as kindness towards others. Studies show that people who engage in negative self-talk and who are overly critical towards themselves are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety. This comes back to the belief that “tough love” gets good results, but really, it’s kindness and compassion that do that. When people practice self-compassion, they enjoy fewer anxiety and depression symptoms.
#10 Kindness is contagious
Lastly, kindness is important because it’s contagious. When a person engages in pro-social behaviors, the people who benefit from them are likely to turn around and “pay it forward.” This creates a ripple effect where it becomes more and more common to show kindness. It’s essentially a positive form of peer pressure. That “helper’s high” also encourages humans to keep being kind. When something feels good, humans want to repeat the behavior.