Mental Health Last updated on 2022-11-14 15:40:31
Kindness and mental health: What is the psychology of kindness?
- Ms. Snigdha Samantray
- 3 Min Read
- Fact Checked
It is virtuous for a human being to be kind. Kindness, or doing good, often means putting others' needs before our own and being generous with our material and emotional resources. His Holiness Dalai Lama says we should be kind whenever possible, and it is always possible to be kind. A simple act of giving up our seat on a bus to someone who might need it more or offering help to someone at work can generate goodwill, uplift, and heal not just others but ourselves too.
Why is kindness so powerful?
We all seek kindness from others in our relationships. We all like to receive kindness and remember acts of kindness done to us in our fond memories. Kindness can crack open the most stone-hearted and the tight-fisted and has been the go-to tool for spiritualists to fight wars of hatred. Just not philosophical, kindness is also backed up by science. Research in the field of contemplative neuroscience has shown that acts of kindness bring structural and functional changes in the brain, which increases the experience of positive emotions, social connectedness & prosocial behavior. It is also known to reduce stress and slow down biological aging.
What makes a person kind?
Kindness is always the outcome of mercy and compassion shown to self. Anyone who is kind towards oneself will be kind toward others. A person who is happy, content, and grateful will treat everyone with kindness and mercy. A kind person is aware of the commonalities of human flaws, hence the forgiveness that he generates for his own flaws extends as forgiveness toward others.
What keeps a person from being kind?
A person who fails to be kind towards oneself will find it difficult to be kind to others. Fear, doubt, greed, and skepticism are the enemies of kindness. People get discouraged to be kind when they see no return for their kindness. True acts of kindness are never reward-directed, and this forms the basic characteristics of kindness.
What happens to your brain when you help others?
Neuroscience studies on kindness have shown that the brain's reward circuit is activated (involving the ventral tegmental area, nucleus accumbens, and the orbitofrontal cortex) when someone engages in acts of kindness, empathy, generosity, or compassion. This, in turn, stimulates the release of serotonin and oxytocin, which can increase feelings of trust, reduce fear and anxiety and help us understand the other person's feelings. In the elderly, kindness and prosocial behavior can promote longevity, and in teenagers, it is seen to boost their self-esteem.
The theory of mind has also stated other brain structures like the amygdala (known to designate emotional meaning to our memories & reward processing), dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (controls and regulates various higher-order cognitive processes like decision making, working memory, planning, inhibition, and abstract reasoning) and temporoparietal junction (involved in functions of attention and social cognition), involved in the brain's perception, processing, and execution of kindness
What are the benefits of showing kindness?
We all get that lovely feeling when we lend a helping hand to someone in need. This distinct sense of satisfaction that ignites the brain's reward system is known as the “helpers high” and is known to drive humans to engage in prosocial behavior. Kindness not only feels good but also does good to us in many ways, as follows:
- Kindness helps release happy hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin in our brains, which boosts happiness and well-being.
- It reduces stress in the body by reducing levels of cortisol.
- It increases happiness, life satisfaction, and longevity.
- It helps us connect better with others, fosters a positive mood, and increases peer acceptance.
- Research has also shown that people who engage in acts of kindness show improvements in gene expression associated with a healthier immune profile.
How can I be a kind person?
Kindness and compassion make this world a better place and bring peace in the face of animosity & hatred. Here are 5 simple ways you can practice kindness in your life:
- Start by being kind to yourself first. Generate kind and compassionate thoughts for yourself and forgive yourself for the mistakes you make.
- Perform at least one kind act consciously every day.
- Be kind to strangers. Choose kindness over skepticism.
- Teach your children to be kind to their peers and animals.
- Model kindness in your actions and set examples for others. Surprise others with random acts of kindness.
When we open our hearts to the basic existential truth that all human beings suffer and struggle at different points of time in their lives, we will also be able to open our hearts to kindness for all beings, knowing that this not only alleviates them but also alleviates our own suffering and alienation. The more we do for others, the more we do for ourselves. This is the simple Psychology of kindness.Read more on how to build a healthy relationship with your partner.
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