Kindness makes you happy…it’s nature’s own incentive system
“Simply seeing or hearing about acts of generosity inspires us to want to do the same” Simon Sinek
As Valentine’s Day is upon us again, there’s lots of talk about love. And generally we accept that love is critical to our happiness. But I think there’s something we’ve forgotten about: it isn’t as grand an emotion as love, it doesn’t have sonnets written about it, novels based around its twists and turns or its very own day in the calendar. But I think it’s just as fundamental to our lives.
Just that. Just kindness. Such a small thing. It sounds sort of humble in comparison to love doesn’t it?
Well, I don’t think it is a small or humble emotion. I think kindness is absolutely essential to our lives. Perhaps we’ve got a little too busy lately – keeping up with work, family, friends, hobbies, and even with social media – where it’s so easy to be kind with a simple ‘like’ but just as simple to be unkind with a quick ‘unfriend’. Maybe when we are so frantically trying to keep up with the pace of life in the 21st century, the small kindnesses are the first things to go?
When was the last time you did something that was genuinely kind? Like grabbing a cuppa with a colleague who you know is having a hard week, even though you’ve got a task list as long as your arm. Like spending time helping interns or less experienced colleagues getting to know your business, just because it’s kind to help others along the path to success. Or by delighting your customers, not because there is anything in it for you, but because you just wanted to?
It’s not always easy to find the energy – mental or physical – to be kind. Sometimes it’s easier to laugh along with gossip in the office than to take the time to think about why someone might have done or said something gossip-worthy. It takes less time to rush to judgement than it does to try to properly understand someone.
But, like Simon Sinek explains, nature has devised an incentive system which rewards these small kindnesses. Being kind, or even just being in the presence of an act of kindness, gives us a shot of oxytocin - the chemical which gives us feelings of friendship, love and trust; it’s a biological response. We are made happy by being kind. And we all know that there is a certain comfort in lying in bed at night, reviewing your day, and knowing that you treated everyone you talked to with kindness.
So, down with love! Let’s spread the word of kindness instead. And maybe someday I’ll be able to send you all a Happy Kindness Day card.