It’s not always easy in our hurried and pressured lives to offer a helping hand to a friend or to forgive the person who jumps in line ahead of us, or even to simply smile at a stranger on the subway. But there are at least 10 great reasons why it might be in our own best interests to slow down, spread the love and show a little kindness.
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It may sound counterintuitive to feel like we have more hours in the day by giving up time to help a friend or volunteer, but that’s exactly what studies have shown. “The heart follows a different kind of math. In our best moments, time disappears,” says philosopher and psychotherapist, Piero Ferrucci, in his book The Power of Kindness. Kindness and generosity bring us into presence, making us feel that we have more freedom and breathing space.
2. Improved Health
Why spend your hard earned money on expensive green juice when you can improve your health with kindness? Engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins—the brain’s natural painkiller—which reduces stress. One study showed perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) than their less kind peers, and some studies go as far as to say that serving others can increase lifespan.
3. High Self-Esteem
Practicing compassion with others develops naturally into a practice of compassion with ourselves (the person we can often be hardest on). When we’re kind to others, we get the opportunity to exercise self-love and forgiveness.
Did you know that the gift of giving (either time or a physical gift) produces the same outcome for the brain as the gift of receiving? If you’ve ever been excited by a gift idea for a loved one or your community, you’ll know this to be true—giving is as joyful as getting. Not only that, but you may notice that the joy you received was never dependent on a ‘thank you.’ When we’re thinking about, planning for, and being compassionate, without expectations, we become happier individuals.
5. More Successful
Students that demonstrate humility, which Ferrucci calls a ‘quality of kindness,’ have been shown to study more and perform more successfully on tests. “Being humble means you work harder and prepare yourself better,” he points out.
6. More Attractive
Recent studies reveal that those who are kind to their fellow humans are also deemed more attractive. Whether it is due to our evolution that makes us more likely to choose a mate who will help us stay alive, or whether it’s simply the relief we experience by being in the presence of someone who is not judging us, compassion creates something of an X-factor in those who practice it.
When we reach out to serve others less fortunate than ourselves, we are reminded of our good fortune and the gratitude we have towards others that have helped us along the way. When we start to think about everyone in our lives to whom we can feel grateful, we realize that all we have comes from others, points out Ferrucci. In that state of humility, “we feel warmth, openness, and intimacy,” he says.
8. Better Relationships
Kindness begets kindness, so it makes sense that when we are compassionate with those in our lives, they are more likely to be kind to us in return. All our relationships improve where kindness has been injected.
9. Greater Empathy
When we offer compassion to others, we are also offering them a safe space to be who they are. With the opportunity to hear another’s unvarnished story, our capacity for empathy develops. Not only does our empathy “bring relief to the person in front of us,” says Ferrucci, but it also can make us feel more satisfied with life, and even, some studies say, more creative.
10. A Sense of Belonging
When we lead a compassionate life, we feel a greater connection to others. Due to factors such as an accelerated pace of life, and new technologies, we unfortunately, find ourselves in something of an “Ice Age of the heart,” says Ferrucci. Acts of compassion and kindness are our ways to reconnect. They can help us, and those around us, feel a deeper sense of kinship and belonging.
But do we even need to be convinced by these benefits? Ferrucci makes the point that if we are healthier, happier and our lives are enhanced by being more caring, and open to others, then surely it means we are simply “born to be kind.” While initially, we may think we are practicing compassion, we come to realize it is actually our most natural state.