Kindness can be described as a positive act, driven by consideration, generosity and friendliness. But why would being kind matter to us? There could be several reasons, apart from commonsense or moral obligation; for example:
- Creating pleasant ambiance for ourselves and others, by using the notions of “mirror neurons” or “emotional contagion” – we often resonate with each other and reflect each other’s emotion like mirror images. Therefore, kindness can be contagious the same way as yawning, sadness or joy.
- Kindness is likely to improve the mood and inject a sense of peace/calm for both the recipient and the giver, and with each single act of kindness we potentially initiate a ripple effect, which may extend beyond the immediate situation and touch the hearts of many people whom we don’t even know ourselves.
- Using tactful ‘diplomacy’ to soften the tone of difficult interactions – it is hard for others to respond to us with harshness or indifference when we offer them our kindness first.
- Broadening social connections, as others naturally would want to get closer to us when we act with genuine appreciation, kindness and trust.
Our engagement or commitment to the purposeful acts of kindness depends on many variables, with our personality being a major factor. Personality, however, is not a rigid structure, built into our psyche; we have the power and capacity to change, and we continue to grow psychologically all throughout our life. We can stop ourselves and ponder how many times we have smiled at others today, and said ‘thank you’ and ‘please’, shown interest to the stranger or bank-teller or shop assistant, given someone a hug or kiss, rung a friend, shown respect to our family, and forgiveness to those who were perhaps inconsiderate or hurtful to us, given encouragement to others and, importantly, done something thoughtful and nice for ourselves.
Let us all embrace the practice of kindness with a generous spirit and appreciation of our own capacity to contribute to the wellness of many. Best wishes to all, Dr Margaret Prysak.