Kindness and compassion are good for all of us.
When we practice it, it benefits not only our own health but other people’s lives too.
I’ve been digging deeper into the untapped power of kindness and compassion as research for my recent book: Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego.
In this article, I’m going to share with you some of the biggest insights I’ve learned. I suspect a few are probably going to surprise you!
So let’s dive into the biggest benefits of practicing kindness and compassion.
8 benefits of practicing kindness and compassion every day
1) It makes you happier
This is one of the simplest but most compelling reasons to practice kindness and compassion.
Doing so increases happiness and self-esteem. Even better, kindness and happiness become a positive feedback loop.
What I mean is that kindness makes you happy, and happiness makes you kinder.
It’s win, win.
But don’t take my word for it.
Research has shown that once you start being kind and compassionate toward others, you won’t want to stop.
For example, two separate studies have highlighted that giving to other people even makes us happier than spending cash on ourselves.
Plus people who did something nice for someone else reported greater life satisfaction. So it seems that altruism and happiness are linked.
Perhaps another simple reason why kindness feels so good and makes us happier is that it releases serotonin and dopamine into the brain.
It’s these neurotransmitters that create the feel-good emotions that give us a sense of well-being.
2) It boosts self-acceptance
Hands up if you have a tendency to be your own worst critic.
I get it. It’s a trap so many of us fall into.
That’s why one of the biggest benefits of kindness and compassion comes from directing it inwards.
- Stop expecting yourself to be perfect
- Accepting your inevitable flaws that come from being human
- Stop beating yourself up for your mistakes
In the intro of this article, I mentioned my new book, Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego.
In it, I stress the importance of accepting the light and shade of life.
What I mean by that is this:
Life isn’t actually about trying to be positive all the time. It’s more about accepting the good and the bad. It’s this that helps us to go with the flow.
So rather than endlessly chastise ourselves, we show ourselves kindness instead.
Rather than continue with the mean self-talk (you know, that voice that tells you your butt is too big or that you just said something stupid) we practice self-compassion instead.
Self-acceptance is actually a really important part of accepting reality in order to feel fulfilled.
And this can be done with a healthy dose of self-compassion and kindness.
3) It slows down aging
Forget expensive anti-aging creams, kindness might be your best-kept beauty secret.
That’s because there’s evidence to suggest that showing kindness and compassion can also help to slow down the aging process.
I know, it seems hard to believe but it’s true!
So how exactly does it do it? Well, here’s the science bit.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina asked groups of volunteers to practice different meditations.
One group was instructed to do so-called loving-kindness meditations. That’s when you focus compassion on other people.
At the beginning of the study, everyone’s telomeres were measured.
Without going too deep into the science, these are the things in your body that help to protect your DNA from daily damage.
The longer your telomeres last, the longer you’re likely to live.
By the end of the study, the people who had done the loving-kindness meditation lost the least telomeres.
The conclusion: kindness can help to slow aging behind the scene.
4) It’s contagious
Maybe you’ve heard of ‘pay it forward’?
It’s the idea that you respond to someone else’s kindness toward you, by being kind to somebody else.
Think of it as the domino effect. And apparently, that really is how kindness and compassion work — it’s contagious.
One study showed this when it asked employees at a Spanish company to both deliver acts of kindness and also to count the acts of kindness they’d received.
Here’s the thing:
Yes, as you’d expect, it made employees happier to be kind and to receive kindness, but it also did something else.
Significantly, researchers found that colleagues who had received kindness took it upon themselves to do the same.
Basically, they paid it forward.
So one simple and humble act of kindness it seems is a bit like a Mexican wave at a ball game.
It doesn’t take long for it to spread far and wide.
5) It helps us feel more connected
When I say connected, I mean socially.
Let’s face it, loneliness is a real issue and one that comes with some serious health issues too.
In fact, research has warned it can do just as much damage as smoking, obesity, and getting no exercise.
Social connection is important to us because it’s linked to increased self-esteem, empathy, and well-being.
But it seems kindness and compassion offer one practical solution that helps to combat loneliness.
Research has suggested that kindness and compassion can help to tackle a sense of isolation.
Well according to one study from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine reaching outward when we are struggling brings us a feeling of purpose and belonging.
Scientists have also found that compassion promotes social connection among both adults and children.
So the next time you are feeling alone in the world, perhaps the best thing to do is to show someone some kindness.
6) It helps you look on the bright side
I’d never recommend toxic positivity.
Ignorantly trying to push away perfectly natural low points in life never does any good. But neither does dwelling on it either.
Another point that I bring up in my book is that yep, life is full of suffering. But that doesn’t mean we need to pile even more pain onto a situation by getting engrossed in it.
Instead, we can choose to let go of what’s causing us suffering. I know, easier said than done.
But one way is to focus more on the brightside and do what brings you happiness. And kindness and compassion can help with this.
That’s probably partly down to the fact that, as we’ve already said, it fills us with the happy hormone — serotonin.
But whatever the exact reason, researchers have found that after several weeks of carrying out acts of kindness, highly anxious people experienced higher levels of optimism.
7) It’s good for your heart
Kindness might give you a warm and fuzzy feeling in your heart. But that’s not what we’re talking about.
On a physical level it helps to strengthen your heart.
It all comes down to oxytocin again.
As author and kindness expert Dr David Hamilton explains it strengthens our cardiovascular system:
“oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure).”
Studies have highlighted this healthy heart phenomenon that kindness can have.
In relationships where partners show more kindness, empathy and affection to each other, they were found to also both have healthier hearts and arteries.
8) It helps society to evolve
Another potentially surprising addition to our list is how kindness and compassion has impacted on the very evolution of our species.
That’s because experts think these qualities are a vital aspect of human evolution.
Researchers have found that compassion has been integral in several ways:
- It promotes cooperation between people who don’t have family ties
- It helps protect vulnerable offspring
- It encourages adaptive mate selection
Or put another way, being kind to each is what has helped us survive.
It continues to this day to help us evolve and do better in society too.
Studies have shown that taking a more compassionate approach towards social problems yields far better outcomes.
For example, In Seattle, WA, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) project decided to tackle drug addiction with more compassion.
Rather than facing jail time, additcts were offered help. Aka they were met with kindness over judgement.
The scheme proved to be so successful it was rolled out in other States.
It’s clear that compassion and kindness, as part of greater cooperation, are an important part of why us human beings have gotten so far.
Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.