World Kindness Day: The Value of Being Kind to Yourself and OthersNov 13, 2022
Sunday, November 13th, is World Kindness Day. “Treat people with kindness” is a well-known saying (echoed by the likes of many, including Harry Styles) and can have a huge impact on a person’s mood and sense of well-being. And kindness doesn’t just benefit others – performing intentional acts of kindness can boost your mood and help you practice self-compassion during challenging moments!
The true value of random acts of kindness
Recent research shows that humans tend to underestimate their kindness’s impact on other people. In a 2022 UT Austin and UChicago study, researchers gave 84 participants the choice of gifting a stranger a cup of hot chocolate or keeping it for themself. Seventy-five participants decided to give their beverage away. Then, the researchers delivered the hot chocolate and informed them that the participants had chosen to gift their drinks, and each recipient reported their mood. “[The participants] expected recipients’ mood at an average of 2.7 on a scale of -5 (much more negative than normal) to 5 (much more positive than normal), while recipients reported an average of 3.5.” Thus, the participants significantly underestimated the value of their kindness. The researchers concluded that “although givers tend to focus on the object they’re providing or action they’re performing, receivers instead concentrate on the feelings of warmth the act of kindness has conjured up.” Your act of kindness (no matter how big or small) means more than you know.
The power of self-compassion
You might be more likely to extend kindness to others rather than yourself. Imagine you’ve made a mistake: do you think something like, “I’m so stupid. Why did I do that?” Now imagine a friend or loved one making the same mistake. You would probably respond with understanding, care, and support rather than criticism.
However, being kind to ourselves is easier said than done. Psychologist Dr. Kristin Neff developed the empirically-backed practice of self-compassion to help productively weather difficult experiences and challenges. There are 3 main components of self-compassion:
- Self-kindness vs. self-judgment: when you make a mistake or feel sad, honor your feelings and care for yourself rather than ignoring your pain or criticizing yourself.
- Common humanity vs. isolation: remember that all humans are imperfect and suffer from time to time. Dr. Neff explains, “self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to ‘me’ alone.”
- Mindfulness vs. over-identification: it is vital to acknowledge when we are feeling pain so that we can begin to heal and productively solve problems. However, over-identifying with negative thoughts and feelings can spur harmful reactivity and contribute to self-loathing. Dr. Neff suggests practicing self-compassion meditation to build this muscle of mindfulness that helps us respond to problems with thoughtfulness and self-kindness.
Treating yourself and others with a little bit of extra kindness every day can boost your well-being and spread joy to the people around you. Choosing kindness is especially important online, where hate and negativity are easily fostered as users operate anonymously. But remember, #YOUCANHELP by choosing to be kind today and every day.
Join #ICANHELP’s community of kindness and positivity on social media (IG, Twitter, TikTok)! You can also learn how to respond to negativity and spread kindness in the digital world by taking #ICANHELP’s Student Digital Citizenship Video Course.
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