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The Power of Kindness

By April Litchford, Extension Assistant ProfessorPicture of someone giving a flower

Mister Rogers had the right idea when he taught his viewers that “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”  Kind acts have the potential to directly improve our lives no matter how large or small the act may seem.  Showing kindness is known to help us build social bonds, increase trust and acceptance in our relationships, and increase our overall happiness(1-3).

The really amazing thing about kindness is that the more kindness you give, the more you get in return.  Individuals that put more effort into being kind, on a consistent basis, report much higher levels of happiness in their lives (1,2). And it doesn’t seem to matter who we are kind to.  Most individuals practice being kind to people they live with or know as part of their social circles.  The results are the same, kindness is kindness so practice being kind and feel the happiness flow!  

The personal effect of kindness can be directly increased by the number of kind acts we perform.  Even the simple act of viewing kindness can improve our mood and influence the feelings of those around us.3 Double bonus!  This is especially true when teenagers observe and then try to be more kind.  Young people report a greater desire to be social and increase the amount of people they socialize with when they focus on kindness.  Also, kind individuals tend to be more well-liked, because the habit of being kind boosts the mood and enjoyment of everyone around them(4).

So how can we learn to make kindness a priority in our lives?  It really takes a shift in thinking and a commitment to do more for others than you do for yourself. Hopefully, these suggestions will inspire you to make kindness a priority in your lives and relationships(5).

  • Reflect on kindness.  Think about a time when someone was kind to you, or when you saw someone being kind.  Share this story on social media, or in an email, or just write it down for your own record.
  •  Text two before 10: try texting two people a text of kindness, love, or appreciation before 10am every day for a week.
  • Take an Awe Walk or Drive.  Go somewhere that is vast and beautiful, enjoy the beauty and recognize the value of focusing on something bigger than yourself. 
  • Try Compassion Meditation.  Take time to focus a feeling of love towards your family, friends, and even your enemies.
  •   Intentionally practice kindness.  Decide on a few things you can do today to increase the kindness you give out; it will get easier and more of a habit over time. 
  • Perform Random Acts of Kindness.  Take the time to act when an opportunity presents itself.  Check out this site for some ideas.
  •  Make generous giving an easy choice.  Making generosity a habit makes the action easier and more rewarding as you make connections with those you give to.  
  • Notice kindness.  The more you look for kindness the more likely you will be to notice those that need your kind efforts.  It will be more of a habit if you are actively seeking kindness in others.

References:

  • Binfet J-T, Whitehead J. The Effect of Engagement in a Kindness Intervention on Adolescents’ Well-Being: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Emot Educ. 2019;11(2):33-49.
  • Rowland L, Curry OS. A range of kindness activities boost happiness. J Soc Psychol. 2019;159(3):340-343. doi:10.1080/00224545.2018.1469461
  • Fryburg DA, Ureles SD, Myrick JG, Carpentier FD, Oliver MB. Kindness Media Rapidly Inspires Viewers and Increases Happiness, Calm, Gratitude, and Generosity in a Healthcare Setting. Front Psychol. 2021;11. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.591942
  • Layous K, Nelson SK, Oberle E, Schonert-Reichl KA, Lyubomirsky S. Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being. PLOS ONE. 2012;7(12):e51380. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051380
  • Three Strategies for Bringing More Kindness into Your Life. Greater Good. Accessed February 23, 2021. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_strategies_for_bringing_more_kindness_into_your_life.