We all learned the importance of kindness as children. However, somewhere along the way, we all learn other things which may conflict: focus, prioritization, selfishness, greed.
Throughout adulthood, it’s all too common for everyday stresses and distractions to prevent us from being kind to others—but it’s obviously important to make a conscious effort to be kind and empathetic. Whether it’s friends, family, or even complete strangers, practicing kindness and empathy helps us relate to other people, and it also helps us create and maintain more positive relationships - that in turn help us in our career and lives.
And the less obvious part is the best part: Being kind is actually good for your own health and happiness! Acts of kindness have been proven to do this by:
Reducing your stress levels. A study by Yale and UCLA demonstrated that when we help others, we help ourselves. The researchers found that helping behaviors buffered the negative effects of stress on the participants’ well-being, and those who reported performing more acts of kindness had lower increases in negative emotion in response to high daily stress.
Lowering your blood pressure. Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth, and emotional warmth produces a hormone called oxytocin in the brain and throughout the body. Oxytocin dilates the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure.
Giving you an energy boost. Research has shown that when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up as if you were the one to receive the good deed. This is called the “helper’s high,” and these hormones produced by kindness boost your energy and strength, and can even increase your lifespan.
Several years ago, when researching successful CEO’s for my book Likeable Business, I had a conversation with Sheldon Yellen, the CEO of global property restoration company Belfor, that helped me change my mindset and inspired me to more actively institute kindness into my own life:
“Be kind,” Sheldon said, “and you’ll feel better. Be kind to the people at work, and be kind to the people you love, and be kind to strangers. When you’re by yourself, write a kind letter to someone, ‘just because’. You’ll feel better, and the crazy thing is, that’s how you end up getting ahead.”
After practicing this for years, (and somehow still getting it wrong sometimes!), I’ve realized that kindness always leads to improving my mood, and an improved mood often leads to improved productivity, and that often leads to success! The thing is, whether or not kindness helps you get ahead, this much is true:
Every time you’re actively kind, you’ll feel better.