Here at the Science of People, we believe that kindness is the key to happiness. And, not only do we believe it, but numerous studies have supported this fact. Being kind to others is the secret to living a fulfilling life.

As a result, kindness is what fuels nearly everything we teach. Whether we’re creating content about body language, personality, helpful skills, or pieces to make your day a bit more interesting, our goal is to help you live a better, more successful life so you can be kind and share your knowledge, joy and success with the people around you.

To celebrate our love of kindness, we’re launching a Kindness Challenge, but first I want to teach about you its incredible power.

Kindness is Your Cure for Life’s Everyday Stresses

For decades, researchers have wondered why humans are driven to be kind to one another. After all, we have survival instincts just like other animals, yet unlike most other creatures we happily invest our time, energy and resources in helping others when there is no obvious benefit for ourselves.

In their search to understand what fuels human compassion, they’ve discovered that engaging in acts of kindness provides several benefits that boost our overall well-being and help us cope with the stresses of everyday life.

Here are just a few of the ways research has shown that kindness can improve your life:

1. Kindness reduces the effects of stress

Next time you’re having a chaotic day, take a breather and do a random act of kindness. Studies have found that doing kind things for others, even if it’s as simple as holding a door open for a stranger or offering a couple minutes of help to a coworker, minimizes stressful emotions.

2. It improves your mood

Not only does being kind help alleviate your bad mood when you are stressed, it also helps you experience more positive emotions. Research has shown that doing random acts of kindness triggers the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood stability and oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel connected to other people. Combined, this has the effect of making you feel loved and emotionally stable when you are frequently kind to others.

3. Being kind boosts your immunity

While stress has the unfortunate ability to make us get sick at the worst of times, engaging in acts of kindness has the opposite effect. Research has shown that being kind to others activates a part of the brain that boosts immunity.

4. Kindness is Contagious

In a 2008 study conducted by the University of California San Diego and Harvard University found that cooperative behavior can spread from one person to another and even to multiple people by mimicry and emotional contagion to cause a ripple effect of happiness. People can literally catch kindness! Furthermore, you don’t even have to witness these acts of kindness first hand.

The study found that the kindness spread to at least three degrees of separation.

How amazing is it that one little act of kindness can cascade through a social network to affect the lives of dozens and even hundreds of other people?!

The researchers wanted to see what moral elevation actually looked like so they measured the brain activity and heart rates of 104 college students while they watched videos showing either heroic acts of kindness or humorous situations.

Amazingly, while viewing the heroic acts, the participants had an unusual combination akin to the fight or flight response paired with a self-soothing response as activity in both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system peaked. Interestingly, nothing happened in the brain while they were watching the humorous videos.

This may be because viewing a compassionate act requires us to witness suffering, which enacts a stress response and activates the sympathetic nervous system. Then, once we see the suffering alleviated through an act of kindness, our heart feels calmed and the parasympathetic nervous system is activated.

5. Acts of kindness are the solution for social anxiety

If trying to develop new relationships makes you anxious, then kindness is your perfect conversation starter. One of the biggest obstacles that prevents people from overcoming their social anxiety is that their anxiety causes them to make poor impressions, reinforcing their fears about interacting with people. One study found that when socially anxious people approach others with acts of kindness it helps them overcome their fears because when people receive acts of kindness, they usually respond with positivity. Over time, these positive interactions will make talking to people less nerve-wracking.

6. Be kinder to increase your energy levels and confidence

There’s something thrilling and deeply satisfying about making other people happy. Those good vibes you get from other people’s gratitude and joy translates into some super helpful benefits for you. Studies show that being kind makes you more energetic and increases your sense of self-worth.

By now you’ve realized that being kind not only helps others but can also drastically improve your life as well. The question is, how do you begin living a life of kindness?

Random Acts of Kindness Ideas

Join us spreading kindness by participating in our kindness challenge.

We know that life is busy so we divided the challenge into three groups. Choose an idea from the list or create a challenge of your own. No matter what you do, be sure to share your acts of kindness on social media with #kindnesschallenge to encourage your friends to join in the challenge.

The Five Minute Favor

If you’re tight on time, a five minute favor is the challenge for you. Here are a couple of quick things you can do to brighten someone’s day.

  • Write someone a thank you card for a time when they were kind to you
  • Call your mom
  • Make an introduction to two people who should know each other
  • Send someone flowers who would never expect it
  • Compliment a stranger who looks like they’re having a rough day
  • Pay for someone else’s meal
  • Your turn: brainstorm other quick ways you can make someone’s day

The One Hour Favor

If  you have some time left over at the end of the day, doing a one hour favor is the perfect way to boost someone else’s happiness as well as your own. Here are some ideas:

  • Write 5 nice recommendations on LinkedIn for people you have worked with
  • Update a public computer with a nice sticky note or to do list. Here’s an example of a list I created at my local Apple store:

science of kindness

  • Go write a glowing review of your favorite 5 books on Amazon
  • Start a Reciprocity Ring

Check out the one we started on Facebook:

science of kindness science of kindness

  • Go write a glowing review of your favorite restaurants on Yelp
  • Go buy someone coffee and have a meaningful conversation
  • Do extra chores so whoever you’re living with has one less thing to worry about
  • Make a meal for a friend or family member going through a difficult time
  • Your turn: What other acts of kindness can you do in your spare time?  

The One Day Favor

This challenge is perfect for when you have a day off work and want to make a significant impact on someone’s life. Choose a cause that you feel passionate about and commit to spending the better part of a day serving it.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Go volunteer at a shelter
  • Buy holiday gifts for a family in need
  • Use your work skills to offer free professional services to a nonprofit
  • Get together with a group of friends, coworkers or family to clean up a local park
  • Host a fundraiser to raise money for a cause
  • Offer to babysit for a friend who is a single parent and rarely gets a break
  • Your turn: Think of a way to help the cause you are most passionate about.

I can’t wait to see how you take on your kindness challenge! Let me know @Vvanedwards and be sure to use the #kindnesschallenge!

About Vanessa Van Edwards

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and behavioral investigator.

I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.

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