Be the light in the darkness by helping others, so that light can grow into something greater and brighter. When we practice kindness, it is not only contagious but linked to a greater happiness. By doing our own part, we have the opportunity to better the world.
A research team led by neuroscientist Jorge Moll at the National Institute of Health discovered a correlation between kindness and the “helper’s high,” also known as oxytocin. The research proved that the decision to do good is linked with social bonding and the release of oxytocin and vasopressin. Additionally, the study showed the most generous people tend to be the happiest people because of the result of their altruistic motives.
I find it important to practice kindness because it causes a domino effect. The chemicals our brain releases during a kindness exchange makes us feel compelled to pass along the movement. It’s simple: Someone will notice the good you’re doing then they’ll want to create good, then someone else sees that person doing good and then they’ll want to create good too. Before we know it, an unending cycle of kindness is generated.
Below are my top three recommendations on how to practice kindness. These are just a few of the many ways, and I encourage you to find what resonates with your heart so then you can contribute to the greater good of society.
1. Embrace Diversity
When you take the time to understand a culture that is different than your own, it enriches your life. Staying in your own bubble will not bring you a greater understanding of the world. Look at something from a perspective that is different than your own. Exploring other cultures will not only help you better identify with others, but will also help you be more empathetic of the world around you.
Growing up, I was always curious about cultures and interests that differed from my own. In high school, I didn’t really identify with one group of friends but rather with people from all different groups. In college, I loved the diversity that surrounded me. I was eager to learn about what made someone or a given culture unique. I find myself drawn to someone who is different from me because then it creates an opportunity to learn and understand.
2. Get Involved in the Community
Volunteering not only shows kindness for the world but promotes change. I would encourage you to get involved in your community, regardless of the amount of time you can dedicate. One of the most rewarding aspects of my life was when I dedicated my time. My commitment varied from one-day events to serving on an executive board, but both were impactful in different ways.
Never underestimate the positive change you can create in the world by volunteering. Here are a few suggestions on how you can spread the kindness in your community:
- Volunteer on a daily, weekly, monthly basis
- Join a nonprofit’s committee or board
- Create a fundraising event
- Spread awareness for a cause
- Donate money or goods
- Pick up litter
Stephen G. Post’s article in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine cited multiple studies on how we are positively impacted when we help others. One study investigated whether or not altruistic social behaviors, like helping others, were associated with better physical and mental health. The study proved “giving help was more significantly associated with better mental health than was receiving help.”
3. Help a Stranger through a Random Act of Kindness
This is something you can do on a daily basis. It can be as big or little as you want. Every day we are presented with the opportunity to help others. Maybe that’s slowing down your pace to hold the door open, paying for a stranger’s meal, or even making eye contact and smiling at someone on your path.
I remember when someone helped me as I was traveling alone in the airport. I was a bit flustered as I struggled to carry my bags. When I walked over to board my flight, another passenger came up to me and kindly asked if she could carry something for me. In that moment of my life I had clinical depression and was dealing with problems beyond my luggage. Could I have struggled down the jet bridge on my own? Probably. But in that moment, it meant so much to me that she chose to help me. She was the light I needed.
Her random act of kindness is one of the experiences I’ve had that inspires me give to others. Sometimes the smallest gestures can be an uplifting force someone needs in that moment of their life.