WARNING! Kindness May Be Good for Your Health!

Health benefits of Kindness


I was reading an article this week by Dr David Hamilton about the possible health benefits of kindness.  He was making the link between feelings induced by kindness and the release of a hormone known as Oxytocin.  This is our happy drug, which gives us a rush of love, also known as the hug hormone.

A study from the University of Miami found that oxytocin helps to prevent cardiovascular disease.  This is because the hormone is thought to help to keep blood vessels clear.

The negative physical impact of chronic and high levels of stress on the human body has been well documented.  Many of us have experienced burnout and know both the psychological and physical toll this takes on our bodies.  Over-exposure to the stress hormone known as cortisol has been associated with an increase in many health problems including but not exclusive to; anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, skin conditions, sleep problems, weight gain, memory & concentration impairment.

But on the flip side – the idea that kindness could actually be good for our health!  Well!  It’s not just nice to be nice, but it turns out that it can potentially be of benefit whether you are the giver or receiver.


The Kindness of Strangers

After reading this article, later in the day, in some kind of serendipitous moment, I rushed to the local supermarket as I realised I needed one extra ingredient for dinner that night.  I got there only to realise that I forgot my face mask.  I NEVER forget my mask as I have one in almost every jacket pocket and usually leave one in my car at all times.  It was an unusually sunny afternoon so I had no jacket, and the mask from my car had magically disappeared.

I stood outside the shop grumbling to myself that I didn’t have time to go back for my mask when a kind stranger overheard my troubles and offered to go into the shop to find a worker and ask if they had a mask I could use.  Like some supermarket hero, she emerged with a mask, which she handed to me.  This person could have just stood by and ignored my moaning, or continued on with her day.  But no, she saw someone had a problem and felt compelled to use some of her precious time to take action solely for the purpose of helping another.

I know that this could seem like a relatively small thing to do, and from the look on my rescuers face she really thought nothing of it.  BUT can I just reinforce that tiny acts of kindness like this mean a whole lot to the person on the receiving end.  It meant I didn’t have to rush back home and saved me about 30 minutes of time, it meant my kids would get their dinner on time, it meant that the foul mood I was in lifted because ‘there are some kind souls on this planet who care’.  Don’t underestimate the act of showing care for another being on this planet!


Being Kind IS NOT WEAK!

I know that sometimes we can be reluctant to show kindness as there is a misconception that being kind = being weak.  I am here to flip that on its ridiculous head and say that it takes real bravery to be kind.  It can show an incredible amount of strength and power of character to be kind to another, even when they are not particularly deserving of that kindness.

‘Does that mean they will take advantage of my kindness?’ – well the answer to that is, only if you let them.

Being kind does not mean being a pushover, or saying yes to everything.  Have you ever thought that sometimes the kind thing to do is to walk away, or to not give in to the other person’s desires?  What defines whether an act is kind or not has nothing to do with how NICE you are being, but more to do with the intentions behind your act.  If you are acting in what you perceive as the best interests of the person, well this is the best that any of us can do.  We do not always get it right, but all we can do is try.


 Being Kind Does Not Mean People Pleasing or Just Being Nice

It has always been an important core value of mine, to seek to be kind.  I am not pretending that I did not make mistakes and that at times I may have been unkind.  Of course, I have, I too am human.

I always remember a time of starting my first ‘professional job’ at the ripe age of 21 and at the start of a team meeting being asked what my intentions were.   I was flustered and felt put on the spot.  Quite frankly I wasn’t sure what they meant by this question.  So I simply gave an honest answer which was ‘to be a good person’.  I was promptly laughed at and told ‘that won’t last’.

Well, the joke is on them, because a good number of years later I would still give this same answer.  Initially, I was angered by their response because it had the undertone of ‘aw you silly little girl’, but I do understand why they laughed.  Being ‘a good person’ or kind person can be seen as being a pushover or weak.  Much like when I told a peer that I would love to live in New York at some point in my life, and I was promptly told that I was too soft and that they would eat me alive!  Gee thanks for the ego boost!

Although harsh, I think what she picked up on was my strong people-pleasing characteristic at that time.  It took me years to work on this aspect of myself, and I still need to keep an eye on it from time to time.  Back then I thought that I was being kind by doing things that encouraged others to like me.  This is a false type of kindness as it is more about you avoiding confrontation and needing to be liked.  This is not genuine kindness, as it is not really about the needs of the other person.

In my opinion, we should not confuse being kind with being weak.  Being unable to say no or defend ourselves and others is damaging to ourselves and those around us. 

“Genuine kindness means having the courage to stand up for what is right.  And to speak up when something or wrong or wicked.”  Stefan Einhorn


Why should we be kind?

There is a multitude of reasons to be kind, which benefits not only you but also wider society:

  • Health benefits of kindness (mentioned in the opening paragraph)
  • It is pleasurable for us
  • Positive impact on others
    • Restores faith in humanity
    • Sends the message that someone cares for them
    • They feel seen and/or heard
    • Perceive that they matter to someone
    • Confirmation that there are kind people who put others first
    • Send the message that they are liked or even loved
  • Rule of reciprocity – although it may not be the intention behind the kind act, people are more likely to want to show us kindness in return, or show their appreciation
  • Ripple effect – it leaves the receiver in a more loving and caring place themselves and therefore they are more likely to act in a kind manner going forward
  • We may live in a better world as a result. The ripple effect is more far-reaching than many of us could ever imagine.  Change yourself and you change the world!


How to Best Use this Information

Firstly I would highly recommend reading the book ‘The Art of Being Kind’ by Stefan Einhorn.  This is a short but very interesting read on this very topic.

Next, a challenge!  We have probably seen these on social media where you ‘pay it forward.  You could attempt an act of random kindness to a stranger.  That would be a start.

Or…… you could take things that little step further, rather than a once in a lifetime act, you could try to inject a little more kindness in all that you do.  When faced with situations of difficulty, try to look at them through the eyes of love, compassion and kindness.  Even if other people are being mean, choose the higher ground, rise above it all and retain those values.

It does not mean that you put up with endless crap though!  Walking away can sometimes be the kindest thing to do, not only for yourself but for the other person.  It shows them clearly that their behaviour is unacceptable and that they have lost you as a result.

I would suggest that if we want to succeed in life, then we have a lot more to gain by being kind than being aggressive and demanding.


“It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder. ‘”  Aldous Huxley