Relationships – Practicing Kindness

By Shelley Galasso Bonanno, MA, LLP

Random acts of kindness. Pay it forward. We’ve all heard these trending terms, and neuroscience has confirmed we do often feel happier when we perform acts of kindness. Research reveals humans have an intrinsic, perhaps intuitive, drive to help others. Yet a recent poll suggests only 25 percent of Americans believe we’re living in a kind society. More than half said they believe kindness has deteriorated in the past 10 years.

While formal acts such as making a donation to charity or performing organizational volunteer work are certainly acts of kindness, simpler actions, such as lending an empathic ear to another or bringing a warm meal to a friend or neighbor, can also be seen as acts of kindness and also boost our own happiness.

A recent study investigated how people felt after observing or performing acts of kindness for seven consecutive days. The research discovered that being kind to ourselves and others, including strangers, boosts our happiness levels. And neuroscience has more research to support these feelings. Neuroscientific evidence has proven that kindness changes the brain, affects our bodies favorably, and may even help reduce symptoms of depression.

Kindness leads to connections with others. No one is immune from the human condition. Everyone has challenges and struggles, most often not readily apparent to others. Being kind to others offers multiple possibilities to start or develop a social connection with someone. Kind acts can strengthen friendships, and numerous research has shown social connections are linked to improved mood. And while being kind may boost your mood, research has also shown that being in a good mood can make you more kind, suggesting this reciprocal link may lead to even more giving.

Being kind to ourselves is perhaps even more important than extending kindness to others. Being kind to yourself may be the first step in learning to extend kindness to others. In fact, researchers have found that being kind not only to others, but also to ourselves, leads to increased feelings of happiness. So, practice kindness often. Pay attention to the effect kind acts have not only on others but on yourself as well. You may find that it not only boosts your happiness but makes you feel better both mentally and physically in the long run.

A lifelong resident of Macomb County, Shelley Galasso Bonanno is a practicing limited licensed psychologist who earned her master’s degree from Wayne State University in 1987. She has a breadth of experience in working with adults, children, families, and couples. In addition to working in private practice, Ms. Bonanno performs consultative services for State and forensic agencies. She performs custody and parenting time evaluations and is a court approved mediator. Her writings have appeared in various online and print publications. An advocate for mental health, you can follow Ms. Bonanno on Twitter @shelleybonanno.

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