“It’s cool to be kind” Meghan Markle told the British Fashion Awards at the start of the year. The Duchess, of course, was talking about being fur-free and planet-friendly. Last summer, Grazia ran the headline “How Kind Became the New Cool” citing everything from Gareth Southgate’s supportive managerial style to the success of Queer Eye and it’s gospel of compassion.
But the *real* reason why kind is so cool is because it is actually good for us. Our wellness arsenal shouldn’t just include yoga and green juice and aromatherapy oils at the end of a long, hard day. Being kind to those around us can seriously boost our sense of wellbeing - which, admittedly, might not be the best motivation for an act of kindness, but let’s be honest, it is probably the most effective.
The Random Act of Kindness Foundation - an online community that promotes kindness IRL - points to the multiple ways being kind has a biological and psychological positive impact. For example, by performing an act of kindness a day, it is scientifically proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and according to the foundation, perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population. A study at British Columbia University saw that after a month of performing kind acts every day, anxious people saw a significant positive increase in mood and relationship satisfaction. Another study from the University of Carolina found that those who practised kindness were happier. A 2010 Harvard Business school piece of research, across 136 countries, backs this up. Those who are altruistic, particularly in financial terms of donations, are the happiest amongst us.
But it is not just our mental health. Dr David Hamilton, author of Why Kindness is Good for You, believes science shows that “when we’re kind our bodies are at their healthiest.” Witnessing kindness produces Oxycontin which helps lower blood pressure and improve your overall heart health (added bonus: it also helps bolster our self-esteem). Meanwhile, a study from Northwestern university in the US found that those people trying to lose weight were more successful when they were in a community and supportive of one another. Being kind got participants and others the healthy results they wanted. There are also studies which suggest longer life span, greater energy levels and also increasing your own sense of pleasure. Known as the “helper’s high”, being kind actually feels good to the body.
So being kind is the super supplement we are all searching for, simultaneously reducing stress and anxiety, whilst making us happier and healthier. And perhaps we don’t need the science to tell us that. When someone is unkind to us, or in turn, we’re unkind ourselves, perhaps mid-row with our partners or parents, we don’t exactly feel great. Abusive message from strangers online personally cause me anxiety and stress, even though I know they shouldn’t, and too many fights with a partner and you can feel run down, low and exhausted. Being unkind, or someone being unkind to you, is a stressful experience and that can cause very physical symptoms. It makes sense of the reverse to be true.
But, despite the science - and the common sense - when was the last time you were kind? When was the last time you offered up a random act of kindness? After all, it’s not as if our world could do without it at the moment. And now that kind has got the social seal of approval, a buzz word from tastemakers and some of the most influential people the world, there’s very little excuse not too. Perhaps this reveals something about humans that we’d rather not see - that we’re only kind when there’s something in it for ourselves? But even I’m not that cynical. Sometimes I think we just need permission. And now we’ve got it; it’s cool, healthy and smart to be kind.
Main image credit: Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash