- Liebie Du Plessis
In a world where you can be anything...
In a world where you can be anything, be kind...
Type in “RAK” or “random acts of kindness” on your browser, Pinterest, or even search the hashtag on social media, and you’ll be overwhelmed with a slew of ideas on how to make someone’s day.
These days, however, a “random act” is hardly random – most of these are meticulous plans to show the world how great you are, how much you contribute to society, or in some cases, serve as a conscience to those better off.
It’s sad to think that not all “acts of goodness”, are in fact “good acts”. Some corporate companies, jumping on “kind” bandwagons are a great example. They are usually quick to post on social media but don’t always follow through with a physical contribution, or long-term involvement in whichever worthy cause they state they are supporting.
I would love to say that most of the random acts of kindness that I personally tackled, have either been impulsive or stemmed from an honest to goodness feeling of “I need to help”.
But I’d be lying if I don’t say that articles with good acts do not attract my attention. Sure enough, I don’t necessarily plan my good deeds like a “to-do list”, but more often than not, I do record it on social media, and have occasionally fallen for “planning” an action or gift. (Yes, in some cases, it actually requires planning – for example volunteering at your local shelter, or finding out where you can drop off donations.)
And even though my main reasoning is not to broadcast it to the world, but to keep it on record for my son to look back on once he has grown too big to remember his requests of being kind, it inevitably does get showcased. It irks me to “show it off”, but there is an undeniable reason why you should highlight good deeds on your social media too!
According to Jamil Zaki, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University for Scientific American, July 26, 2016 : The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.” This means one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people!
The thing is, over the past few years I have been adulting, I have caught myself wanting to do more, and to give more. Kindness is often described as “giving, without expecting anything in return”. Not always recording, but sometimes just giving, because it makes my heart happy has been a theme in hour house.
From hugging strangers to buying a loaf of bread for the guy on the corner, or handing over an ice-cold drink to the local security guard, these are not always earth-shattering acts. And while I could say it’s because my heart is in the right place, or use the tired “I’ve been raised well”, I don’t think it’s any of these reasons that paved the way.
Kindness, unlike an emotion such as happiness, or feeling gratitude is mostly an intentional behaviour or action. And while you would think it’s the receiver of these actions or kind acts that benefit, it has scientifically been proven that it goes both ways! (Meaning I unintendedly benefit as much as those I am trying to bless…)
Yes – karma could be reasoned, but I’d like to believe that the universe is inherently good, and good acts come my way, because…well doesn’t good always triumphs evil in those fairytales we are raised with?
Whether you are recipient or giver or merely just a witness, there is plenty of scientific evidence to back up that goodness indeed reigns supreme. For one, you can feel the benefits of an increase in oxytocin.
Oxytocin is commonly called the “love hormone” and this helps to lower blood pressure, improve overall heart health, increase self-esteem and optimism. Some studies have shown that acts of kindness can increase a feeling of strength and energy due to helping others. It can also make the “giver” feel calmer, less negative and increase feelings of self-worth.
Actual, physical results, scientifically backed. Now, who wouldn’t want to max on that?
If you’ve ever read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, you would know that some people often express care for loved ones (and presumably strangers), in their own personal love language. A kind of “give the world what you would like to get” act. And in this case, there’s no denying that one of my languages, is acts of service. Translation: kindness…
But did you know that kindness is teachable? “It’s kind of like weight training, we found that people can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help.” Dr. Ritchie Davidson, University of Wisconsin
In my personal experience, it is also slightly addictive. Once you start giving (your time, compassion, physical gifts), you can’t stop!
Someone once tried explaining it to me by theorizing that it compares to your first tattoo. Once you start, you can’t help but have an itch for more.
Laughing it off at the time, I never fully understood it, until I did get my first tattoo.
The itch has not stopped.
But unlike some bad itches, that of being kind is a good thing and one you can actually pay forward.
So, if you ever do get the itch to be kind, just know that you’ll not only be doing the world a favour, and take it one step closer to feeling like a children’s bedtime fantasy novel…you’ll be doing yourself one.
It’s been proven by science after all!!
Ps. Need to do some more background reading or add some “to-dos” to your kindness list? We’ve done the hard work for you - https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/the-science-of-kindness