Kindness is a way we engage with the world and connect rather than withdraw. It has been associated with a positive mood, realistic optimism and success (Hanson 2023). But how can something as gentle and benevolent as kindness have so much impact on our lives?
Take a moment …
Can you remember the last time someone was kind to you? Do you remember when you were kind? Take a few seconds to recall the memory. Is the memory of kindness strong and memorable, and where do you feel or sense the memory in your body? Take some breaths. Activating memories of kindness can be reassuring and powerful and gently shift our mood and perspective. Remaining in a positive state for a few mindful seconds and feeling the emotion in our body can create traits which can act as a powerful psychological resource for resilience and wellness (Hanson, 2018; Booth, 2023).
Each day this week remember when you experienced kindness and maybe create moments of kindness… and notice what happens …
A beautiful reminder of the power of kindness and compassion. According to many researchers, our biology is wired to recognise and respond to kindness, which can have a positive impact on our overall well-being. This is because when we witness acts of kindness, the observer part of our nervous system takes note, we recognise goodness and feel empathy. Biologically, mindful kindness can also help us calm and settle our nervous system, encouraging a gentle state of ‘restore and restore’ through the release of oxytocin, the feel-good bonding chemical. It’s no wonder why kindness is associated with many benefits for our wellness and resilience. Dr. David Hamilton’s Why Kindness is Good for You book is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about the power of kindness and oxytocin from warding off disease, premature ageing and loneliness. Kindness and compassion can keep us wise and connected to our warm-hearted humanity as a leaders.
“Compassion means that we don’t want other beings to suffer, and kindness means that we want them to be happy”Dr Rick Hanson (Making Great Relationships 2023)
Sometimes it takes courage, strength and bravery to be kind and compassionate (sometimes known as Fierce Compassion or being yang (Neff, K., 2021), to hold the torch and lead the way when others forget.
Professor and Psychologist Dacher Keltner, director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory, believes humans are innately wired for kindness, drawing inspiration from Charles Darwin’s insights into human goodness. Kelter says Darwin believed humans are a profoundly social and caring species, with tendencies towards sympathy that are instinctual and evolved. Kindness and goodness literally change our lives and the lives of others that we connect with.
Researchers at the University of Sussex have found that the “warm glow” of kindness is real, regardless of whether it is altruistic or strategically motivated. When you help someone or donate to charity, it activates the reward processing areas of the brain, similar to other positive experiences. However, receiving money after helping someone might make one feel undervalued. Instead, kind words and a hug would help spark the warm glow of appreciation The university’s Senior psychology lecturer Dr Dan Campbell-Meiklejohn explains that giving is a kind of reward and lights up the same part of the brain as eating a nice slice of cake. Dopamine acts as a messenger in the brain to let us know that what we did was good behaviour and makes us want to repeat it! Maybe a better option than more cake!
In times of uncertainty and stress, our brain’s ‘fight and flight system’ can become overstimulated and lead to feelings of being out of balance and overwhelmed. We may also spend too much time stimulating our ‘driver/achieving wanting system,’ contributing to anxiety and burnout. Kindness may be a way to counter these impacts by finding ways to balance our emotions.
“That is what compassion does. It challenges our assumptions, our sense of self-limitation, worthlessness, of not having a place in the world, our feelings of loneliness and estrangement. These are narrow, constrictive states of mind. As we develop compassion, our hearts open.”Sharon Salzberg
For over a decade, Carter and Hougaard (2022) have been recommending a warmer, more compassionate approach to work and leadership. They emphasize the importance of transparency for building trust and psychological safety. Even in uncertain times, clear communication is empowering and kind. Whereas Balasubramanian and Fernandes (2022) argue demonstrating humility and focusing on connections rather than correcting prioritising employee well-being at work.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”Desmond Tutu
Over the past decade, I have dedicated myself to learning and researching about the profound impact and challenges that kindness and compassion can have on individuals and groups through coaching. I remain deeply curious and passionate about evolving kindness and compassion research and how this intrinsic aspect of human nature can help us reach our true potential. How do we build more kindness and compassion personally and at work for greater wellness at work and home and in society?
It’s kind of reassuring to know that there is kindness out there in the world often reported as full of worry and fear, war and upset.
And that kindness and care have the potential can land with us and those we care about.
That’s powerful, isn’t it?
Would you like to cultivate more Kindness in your workplace?
Researchers agree cultivating a positive workplace culture is crucial for success. To help you on your way check out this practical free guide on Workplace Kindness from Random Acts of Kindness. It outlines 7 essential steps and ingredients to get you on your way with ideas. It includes setting the tone, modelling good behaviour, providing a safe environment, fostering growth, building trust and belonging, promoting communication and collaboration, and celebrating achievements. Engaged workers are more productive, make fewer errors and accidents, stay longer, and feel better about their jobs.
To read more about compassionate culture, check out my wellness at work designed from my Master of Science Studies in Mindfulness Research.
BALASUBRAMANIAN, S. and FERNANDES, C., (2022). Confirmation of a crisis leadership model and its effectiveness: Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, 9, (1), [Available from: DOI 10.1080/23311975.2021.2022824].
BOOTH, L., (2023) Mindful Self-compassion A Pilot Model for Coaching Male Business Leaders, (Masters of Science Dissertation Aberdeen University).
DANA, D., (2020). Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
HANDSON, F., HANSON, R., (2018) Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness. Harmony.
Hamilton, D., (2010) Why Kindness is Good for You,
HOUGAARD, R. and CARTER, J., (2022). Compassionate Leadership, how to do things in a human way. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.