Kindness is a behavioral response of compassion and actions that are selfless; or a mindset that places compassion for others before one’s own interests. In performing the selfless act, a person may undercut his or her own selfish interests. Kindness is a value that is often undermined and forgotten because we live in a society where we are rushed, stressed and spread too thin. Saying hello to our neighbor, offering to bag our own groceries at the store, allowing passengers into our lane on the freeway, volunteering, practicing forgiveness, offering to help a friend without any underlying motive are all simple acts of kindness that seem to be forgotten within our society. Kindness has been linked directly to internal happiness according to studies but yet we spend years striving for happiness and ignoring kindness to then wonder, “what are we doing wrong”?

Mental health statistics

According to NAMI, nearly 1 in 4 Americans (62 million persons) are affected by mental illness annually, and 1 in 25 adults in the United States live with a major mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety disorder. Close to 20 percent of teens from 13-18 cope with mental illness annually, and about 30 percent of adults cope with anxiety disorders. The cost of mental illness is staggering 193 billion dollars annually in lost earnings, according to NAMI. In fact, mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder represent the third most common cause of hospitalization for both youths and adults aged 18-44. Kindness promotes compassion, empathy, closeness, gratitude and a sense of community which is all qualities needed to help combat mental health disorders. Psychotherapy and medications are also necessary but therapists advocate for positive environments with a strong support system in order to be successful in recovery. Collective compassion is what society needs to break down stigma and improve the lives of people with mental illness and their families.

Kindness and the brain

Studies have shown that practicing kindness whether it is in the form of compassion or gratitude can boost serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain, which are known as the “feel-good happy hormones”. On the contrary, arguing, anger, jealousy, feelings of guilt and other negative feelings over a long period of time can harvest an increase in cortisol which over time can have adverse effects on your physical body leading to weakened immune function and weight gain, in particular, central weight gain. In other words, our positive (and negative) emotions are closely tied to both mental and physical signs and symptoms.

World Kindness Day

World Kindness Day is celebrated annually on November 13th. On this day, participants attempt to make the world a better place by celebrating and promoting good deeds and pledging acts of kindness, either as individuals or as organizations. World Kindness Day was first launched in 1998 by The World Kindness Movement, an organization formed at a 1997 Tokyo conference of like-minded kindness organizations from around the world. There are currently over 28 nations involved in The World Kindness Movement, which is not affiliated, with any religion or political movement. The mission of the World Kindness Movement and World Kindness Day is to create a kinder world by inspiring individuals and nations towards greater kindness.