Written by the Positive Psychology Program 

What is kindness?

Kindness is the ability to place the needs of others in front of your own, to be selfless and to empathize with those around you. It is one of the 24 character strengths and virtues identified by Martin Seligman because it is a strength, as it is a vital part of being humans in a compassionate society.

Kindness is a virtue of humanity, as it represents a fundamental aspect of being social creatures with kindness manifesting in caring and healthy relationships. There are many ways to be kind to those around you and any type of kindness can affect others in ways we don’t even realize.

Kindness consists of doing favors and good deeds for others without the expectation of personal gain. This strength requires respect for others but also includes emotional affection. Kind people find joy in the act of giving and helping other people, regardless of their degree of relatedness or similarity. – Tayyab Rashid & Afroze Anjum (2005),VIA Character Strengths.

Over the year there have been numerous studies conducted to investigate the psychological effects of kindness. According to a study published in 2010 by Buchanan and Bardi, kindness creates a significant increase in life satisfaction. Participants who were instructed to complete an act of kindness everyday for 10 days showed a significant difference to those who did not.

Another study conducted by Akin, Dunn, and Norton (2011) found that participants reported that they felt happier spending money on others rather than on themselves. These studies show how happiness and life satisfaction can be increased through the practice of kindness.

Key concepts

The VIA institute has pointed out the 3 altruistic personality traits of kindness. These personality traits help us understand why individuals are kind without the sense of duty.

  1. Empathy/sympathy – To be able to understand another person’s circumstances and to have the capacity to see beyond your needs and comfort.
  2. Moral reasoning – To be able to be objective in determining what is right from wrong. Having moral reasoning is an important part of human nature, this helps you understand what it means to be kind.
  3. Social responsibility – To be able to understand the ethical framework of society and the role and affect in which you play. Understanding how much you affect society can help you understand how important it is to be kind to those around you.

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” – Dalai Lama.

20 Ways to Show Kindness:

Its important to how your kindness to every one around you – the people you love and strangers you’ll never see again. Too often we underestimate the impact a simple gesture can have in another person, but if you think of your own experience, most likely you can think of a case in which an act of kindness had a profound impact on you.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  1. Greet everyone with a smile.
  2. Donate all your unnecessary possessions.
  3. Do one simple random act of kindness a day for a stranger or someone you love every day.
  4. Help someone move.
  5. Donate blood.
  6. Become an organ donor.
  7. Thank your parents for all they have sacrificed for you.
  8. Return lost items to the owner.
  9. Talk with a homeless person – perhaps offer them a dinner.
  10. Be kind to someone you dislike.
  11. Donate to your favourite charity.
  12. While others are gossiping about someone, say something nice about that person.
  13. Talk to the shy person at a social event.
  14. Tell someone that you are thankful they are in your life.
  15. Babysit for a single parent for free.
  16. Write a list of things you love about someone and give it to them.
  17. Adopt a rescue pet.
  18. Write someone an anonymous handwritten thank you note.
  19. Compliment a work colleague for their excellence.
  20. Buy a small useful gift for someone. Just because.

Keywords; kindness, positive psychology