When we are kind to others, we often feel happier. This is because prosocial behaviour triggers the release of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine is a hormone that makes us feel good, lowers our stress levels and generally puts us in a good mood. Research shows that when people are encouraged to carry out five acts of kindness in a day, they report feeling much happier as a result and the positive feelings last for days (Lyubomirsky, 2007). So, doing good feels good.
Acts of kindness benefit our health. Studies show that people who are regularly altruistic towards others show improved mental health (Achor, 2011). Being kind to others also triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin (known as the ‘love’ hormone), which helps lower our blood pressure and even protects our hearts (Hamilton, 2017). So, doing good does us good.
Kindness is any behaviour where we are friendly, helpful or generous towards others, often without expecting anything in return. We are hardwired to be kind because when our hunter-gatherer ancestors co-operated with one another and looked out for each other, they survived better and raised more children.
Kindness is contagious. When someone is kind to us, we are far more likely to be kind to someone else because we have a ‘pay it forward’ mentality. It means that small acts of kindness can have far-reaching ripple effects. In the accompanying resource, I give suggestions on how you can encourage your students to perform acts of kindness, as well as reflecting on and showing appreciation for the kindness of others.
You could cultivate your own compassion and kindness by practising this ‘befriending meditation’ from Mindfulness – Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.
Achor, S. (2011) The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work. London: Virgin Books.
Hamilton, D. R. (2017) The Five Side Effects of Kindness: This Book Will Make You Feel Better, Be Happier and Live Longer. London: Hay House UK.
Adrian Bethune is author of Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom – A Practical Guide to Teaching Happiness (Bloomsbury, 2018) and the founder of www.teachappy.co.uk @AdrianBethune.