Everyone appreciates a friendly gesture. But when it comes to explaining why we are kind, there are two camps. Some think that it is an unselfish act of kindness while others, perhaps more cynically, mean that we do it to become popular and gain benefits. But now research shows that we are happier to be kind.
Being kind to others affects us positively in several ways. When we decide to be generous or cooperative, is a specific area of the brain called a striatum activated? Oddly enough, it is the same center in the brain that is stimulated when we eat good food or use drugs – the way we feel rewarding.
Gives more joy to give to others
But you don’t have to go as far as X-rays to realize that kindness provides this kind of experience. Psychology studies show a link between kindness and general well-being in young people. It was enough to think of occasions when you were helpful and kind to make teens feel better at ease. Research also shows that it is more pleasure to spend money on others than to spend them on themselves. So there seems to be something in the old saying “It is more blessed to give than to take”.
Kindness – how does it work?
But why and in what way does kindness make us happier? There are different mechanisms involved and how powerful they are depends on our personalities. Here are five examples.
When you are kind to someone, it often results in the person smiling and smiles is contagious as you know. This is explained by the fact that other people’s emotional expression activates our brain in the same way and makes the feeling as real as if we had experienced it ourselves. Laughter is another clear example of how emotions are transmitted, how tired people is starting to laugh just because someone else is doing it.
2.Put things right
The same is the other way around, when we feel compassion for others who are not feeling well, then it is easy to feel down by yourself. Especially when it comes to family and close friends. Doing something nice for someone who is sad can make us feel better, partly because we too feel relief, but also because we control the situation. Although the effect is greatest when it comes to loved ones, it can also include humanitarian issues. Engaging in poverty and climate change gives a feeling of having a positive influence – something that lifts the mood.
Kindness opens up social contacts with others. For example, buying a gift for someone or just invite on a coffee strengthens friendship and is linked to well-being. Charity offers opportunities to get in touch with people on the other side of the earth, by donating money and helping to improve their life situation. Volunteering also opens up for new meetings.
4.A nice identity
Most people would like to see themselves as kind. Kindness helps us to express that side of ourselves and makes us feel proud. A recent study shows that children already in the early stages understand that kindness makes us better people and makes us feel happier. The feeling is enhanced when it is linked to other aspects of our personality that together create a sense of meaning. An example is a bird lover who can help a bird or someone who loves art who has the opportunity to donate to a gallery. The more we identify with what we are engaged in, the greater the feeling of satisfaction.
5.What we sow we reap
When looking at the psychological aspects of kindness, it turns out that a strong motivating factor is the mutual exchange of services. This can happen directly or indirectly, someone may remember that you helped them at an earlier time and therefore be more inclined to help you in the future. But it can also be that a person’s kindness has a positive influence on the group spirit and makes everyone a little more friendly minded. For example, if someone starts to bake at work, it can inspire others to do the same or something similar which gives good dividends to everyone involved.