What is kindness?
Ask someone this question and they’ll probably give you a thoughtful – yet blank – look. Kindness, like many other concepts, is something we intuitively understand yet struggle to put into words.
What we can understand is that kindness feels good. Remarkably, kindness feels good regardless of whether we’re receiving it, giving it, or even just witnessing it.
David R. Hamilton PhD, in his article “The opposite of stress” https://drdavidhamilton.com/the-opposite-of-stress/ explains that feelings of kindness generate oxytocin and nitric oxide inside the body. These molecules guide the nervous system into a state of rest and relaxation by softening the walls of the arteries, ultimately lowering blood pressure and improving circulation.
Kindness offers a myriad of other benefits, including improved heart health, greater levels of immunity, slower aging, stronger personal relationships, and perhaps most important of all – simply feeling happier. Plenty of studies have shown that people who regularly volunteer or intentionally practice acts of kindness can ward off depressions and experience measurably improved levels of happiness and reduced stress.
What constitutes kindness?
With all its benefits, you could be forgiven for thinking that acts of kindness must be grand gestures. After all, for something to offer such amazing health and emotional benefits both short-term and long-term, it would have to be pretty huge, right?
In the case of kindness, no. Even the simplest kind acts can produce as much oxytocin and nitric oxide inside the human body as the grandest gesture.
How, then, can we practice kindness?
Kindness can be as simple as a nice thought, a genuine smile, lending a helping hand. Kindness can include giving of gifts or money, but also includes giving of yourself. Kindness is thinking of someone else and wondering what you could do to make their life easier, or to brighten their day.
Any act of gift-giving is an act of kindness, but when you give a gift intentionally – that’s where kindness truly shows. Taking the time to think about a person and what they would most want not only makes that person happy, but makes you feel good too. When you choose a gift that you know is going to provide a slice of luxury, a reprieve from the stress and busyness of everyday life, or a chance to simply relax and take a moment, you’re choosing kindness.
The next time you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone special, think about how the gift you choose could make them feel special, safe in the knowledge that someone was thinking of them and wanting to brighten their day.
And always, choose kindness.