Why do acts of kindness? How is being kind good for you? Is being altruistic ever not good for you or the recipient of your deeds?
Heartfelt altruism - helping others at your own expense out of concern for their well-being, springs from empathy, compassion, love, and caring. It springs from wanting to make a positive difference in the world, to live a life of meaning, and to feel good about yourself. When you help others in big or small ways from a spirit of genuine desire to give and help without expectation of a return, the law of reciprocity says that it will come back to you. As you give, so shall you receive.
Expressing authentic kindness in thought, words, actions and deeds is a positive, feel good way to heal yourself and the world, one person, one animal at a time. It benefits others and has the potential to ripple out into the world as acts of kindness are paid forward from one person, one community to another. Showing kindness is also good for you. Giving someone a hand up benefits your mental and physical health.
You may already realize that doing nice things for others feels good, but do you know why? Functional MRI scans show that donating and volunteering light up the part of the brain called the mesolimbic system. This reward and pleasure center is the same one that activates when you take drugs, eat food and have sex. Your brain releases feel good endorphins and creates the warm glow of the "helpers high". Doing acts of kindness is one of the keys to happiness in life.
Throughout this post you will see responses to the question "How are you/have you been kind to others? Add your response in the comments below. Let's shift away from negativity and bring a positive attitude and inspiration to others. This is not bragging or about ego, so let your light shine.
Commiting acts of kindness enhances your quality of life and that of others. It also:
Acts of kindness and compassion from the heart benefit your longevity and your physical health.
The key to gaining mental and physical benefits from volunteering and generosity is to give from the heart and not from a sense of obligation or guilt, which leads to health-harming stress.
In a word, yes.
If your altruism wears you down and burns you out to the point where you resent it and have trouble being nice, then it's time to step back. Reevaluate why you give so much of yourself that your mental and/or physical well-being are suffering.
Acts of kindness may not always be in the best interest of the recipient. While it is always positive to speak kindly, even when being assertive, it is not always positive to give hand outs from a sense of altruism or compassion. Wisdom is key in these circumstances. There's a big difference between a hand-up which lifts someone and helps them stand on their own and hand-outs which build dependency and lack of motivation in people who are capable of doing more for themselves.
If you are a caregiver who makes doing acts of kindness a vocation, it is important for you to take exceptional care of yourself. Honor your limits to avoid compassion fatigue and burn out. Don't lose the joy of serving because you overdo and then decide to quit. This happens often among caregivers, advocates and rescuers. It's sad. We need you.
Life is a balance. Yes, the need is great. Still, you will do more good overall if you pace yourself and take excellent care of yourself. It's like they say on the airplane. Put on your own oxygen mask first. The better you take care of yourself, the more you have to give.
As difficult as it may be, realize that each bit of good you do is a wonderful gift to the world even though you cannot save the world. Find peace and contentment in that knowing.
If empathy, compassion and acts of kindness have not been your norm, you can change that. Don't judge yourself or rationalize. It's okay. Today is a new day.
Realize that action may have to precede how you feel as you reawaken your natural sensitivity toward others. Start by acting "as if". Check your impulse to be sarcastic or nasty. Take a breath and speak as you want to be spoken to.
Tune into your inklings and look for opportunities to be a blessing to others. Commit to doing one or two random acts of kindness every day, Smile at the salesclerk. Say thank you and please. Toss a dollar into the musician's bucket. Take your dog, or your kids, to the park and play together.
As kindness becomes your norm, you may surprise yourself by how much you enjoy being altruistic and how much better you feel about yourself and others.
Instances of empathy and kindness among animals and birds have been observed for years. Mammals in particular are sensitive to the distress of others and aim to help them. I'm sure it happens much more than we realize among and between species.
Acts of kindness can be planned and spontaneous. Both feel good and help change your corner of the world for the better. Have fun with kindness. Follow your inklings and your inner guidance.
Here are some suggestions and reminders of everyday kindness that brighten the day for both giver and receiver.
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Enjoy giving these gifts throughout the year. When the urge to commit a random act strikes, take yourself up on it even if it seems silly or insignificant. You might be amazed by how much you are appreciated. Best of all, you will find that by giving, you receive the greatest gift of all.
Whether you are formally volunteering or doing acts of kindness throughout the day, your mental and physical health will thank you. Compassion and kindness come from love, and love is a powerful force of healing. You will feel better about yourself and you will make a positive impact in the world. What can be better that that?
Have you committed acts of kindness? Have you received some kindness? Please share in the comments section below to inspire others and raise our collective vibration of goodness in the world.