Being kind is an intrinsic part of being human. From reinforcing a sense of identity to creating new connections, here are five reasons why
Recognise that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when witnessing an act of kindness? Psychologists refer to this as ‘moral elevation’, and it helps explain why kindness is catching. According to research published in the US Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, even reading about kind acts can elicit moral elevation, making us more likely to follow suit.
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Whether it’s giving up your seat on the bus for a stranger or inviting a struggling friend for dinner, being kind makes the giver feel good, as well as (hopefully) the beneficiary. Most of us want to think of ourselves as kind, so acting in that way reinforces our sense of identity, making us feel satisfied and proud of who we are.
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Human brains are hardwired for empathy, because we associate those near to us – friends, partners, family members – so closely with our own selves, say psychologists at the University of Virginia. It stands to reason, then, that being kind to cheer someone up makes us feel good too. We’re putting something right, but also sharing in the relief that they feel.
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In a 1980s study, 10,047 people were asked to rank preferences in a potential mate. Kindness ranked above physical attractiveness. Something to do with dodgy 80s haircuts? Perhaps, but more recently Dr Freya Harrison at the University of Nottingham drew a similar conclusion. “It might be a sign of good genes,” she says.
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“Kindness is the social glue that connects individuals within a community,” say those at the organisation Random Acts of Kindness. It’s more than a pleasing soundbite: being kind holds the key to all sorts of social connections. Volunteering or even simply donating some money to charity opens up a whole new circle of people to be connected to.
Image: Jimmy Larkin
Featured image: Vonecia Carswell