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The Effects of Human Kindness

The act of kindness can be expressed in countless ways. A warm hello said to a stranger, giving money to those in need, allowing cars to merge into traffic… all of these are acts of kindness. Kindness may be best expressed as a state of mind. With the holiday season over, and many of us feeling the effects of a far-reaching world disaster, understanding how kindness can help is very important. People you help can see the direct result of your actions, and people who witness your gestures can be touched by what you do. From giving money and time, to the way in which you communicate with friends, family, and co-workers, the ripple effect of kindness is far-reaching.

It is easy to think that kindness is only a "one-way street", but kindness can go both ways. Giving, in and of itself, can be a great reward, but how is the giver affected? The giver can be rewarded in many areas, both psychologically and physically.

Psychological effects of kindness:
At first glance, it is easy to identify how giving or acts of kindness can show positive effects to the giver. Receiving a warm reaction and knowing that you have helped with easing loneliness or helplessness can (and should!) give you personal satisfaction. Maybe it's not that drastic. Maybe you've just "made someone's day, but isn't that enough? A sense of exhilaration and euphoria may add a heightened sense of well-being. The initial reactions from an act of kindness may lead to a sense of connectedness with others. Providing relief and protection also adds to this connection, as most people feel a sense of satisfaction from 'giving' to others. Why not test the theory and see how you feel?

Physical effects of kindness:
Allan Luks and Peggy Payne have identified some of the physical effects of kindness in their publication "The Healing Power of Doing Good". These effects can include a greater sense of calmness and relaxation, which may also ease pain (from headaches to back pain) and may even reduce high blood pressure. They also suggest that other effects of kindness may increase your energy level and can even reduce excessive stomach acid.

Where kindness can be shown:
It would be impossible to list every way that kindness can be shown or given. Being attuned to situations where you can help almost becomes a "state of mind" or "attitude" that you can live by. Start by making a list of areas where you can help. This may include giving to a helping organization, such as a local homeless shelter, food-bank, or a national/ international organization. With the natural disaster in the Far East dominating what we see on the evening news, perhaps you could start by identifying national or international organizations that could use your financial donations. You can even look to your community for places that could use your donations or volunteer time, such as visiting patients in a nursing home or hospital ward. Or, for some of this writer's favorites: start with the everyday little things that offer surprises and make people in your nearby community wonder what simple yet amazing acts of kindness are running amok:

  • Pay for the person's order behind you in the drive-through line.
  • Make eye contact with the person who rings up your groceries and really look at them when you say, "Have a really great evening. Thank you". Mean it.
  • Every now and again, tip the wait-staff 50%, (obviously you choose which bill it is!). Leave them a note telling them "why them".
  • Compliment at least 2 people every day. Mean it.
  • Do you know what your co-workers favorite ____ is? (Fill in the blank - breakfast muffin? Dog? Color? Sports Team? Leave them a little something on their desk. Don't EVER tell them it was you that did it).
  • You get the idea…

The implications of kindness are far reaching. Showing kindness even on a small level is a great start. Giving without expecting anything in return has its own rewards.

Luks, A., Payne, P (1991). The Healing Power of Doing Good. New York: Fawcett Columbine.

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