Here's How to Celebrate Kindness Today
Photo by Adam Nemeroff on Unsplash
Note: This article was originally published on CredibleMind
Amer Jandali is already looking forward to his next Random Acts of Kindtrip. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, every year for the past five years, he traveled with his friend Diana across different parts of the United States on a mission to spread kindness. They just completed their most recent trip in December 2019.
“I call it a ‘week-long meditation,’” says Amer. “It helps me see every moment as an opportunity to be of service.”
In celebration of Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 14-20), let’s explore the meaning and benefits of kindness so we can all be inspired to bring more kindness to the world.
Happy to Help
The American Psychological Association defines kindness as a “benevolent and helpful action intentionally directed toward another person.” They add that kindness “is often considered to be motivated by the desire to help another, not to gain explicit reward or to avoid explicit punishment.” 
Although the motivation may be more about giving than receiving, being kind can release several hormones that contribute to improving your own mood and overall wellbeing: 
Oxytocin, which is tied to making us more trusting, more generous, and friendlier while also lowering blood pressure;
Dopamine, which contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction; and
Serotonin, a neurotransmitter believed to help regulate mood and social behavior.
Researchers have found that the benefits are similar whether you are being kind towards yourself, people you know, or strangers. Even witnessing the kind acts of others can boost your mood. 
Kindness as a Practice
Practicing "random" acts of kindness every once in a while may bring short-term benefits, but kindness is most beneficial as a practice that you work into your daily routine. 
In the Buddhist tradition, the practice of loving-kindness meditation is closely linked with mindfulness and compassion. Whereas compassion involves the desire to ease someone’s suffering, acts of kindness might be regarded as the vehicle through which we can fulfill that intention.
Recent neuroscience research has suggested that compassion is something that is not fixed but rather—through training and practice—enhanced. Similar to weight training, people can actually build up their compassion "muscle" and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help. 
Kindness for All—Including Ourselves
While it’s great news that you can strengthen your "compassion muscle," Amer also shared his experience with "compassion fatigue"* and the importance of being kind to oneself.
“It really opens you up,” he says. “It’s very easy to be touched by the things you see, and it can be overwhelming.”
Amer explains that he and Diana reserve one night of each week-long trip to focus on being kind to themselves and each other. But this is not a selfish indulgence. Not only is it an important way to practice kindness, it is also necessary for them to continue showing kindness to others.
The More You Give, the More You Get
As with all virtues, regularly practicing kindness is both a reliable path to increasing your own happiness and a great way to have a positive impact on the people around you. Acts of kindness don’t just benefit the people directly involved in the interaction. The positive effects of kindness are contagious and can be experienced by everyone who witnesses the act, improving their mood and making them more likely to "pay it forward." 
When I asked how the Random Acts of Kindtrip experiment transformed him, Amer said, “It puts you in touch with a deep sense of gratitude. I feel more confident just smiling at people because I know that even something that small can make a big difference.”
His experiment is apparently working. Talking to Amer, thinking about him and Diana driving around making people’s days and lives just a little bit better and how many more people’s lives have been touched by the "ripple effects," definitely gave my mood a boost and inspired me to go out and be kind to others as well.
Get Started with Your Kindness Practice
Looking for more inspiration to make acts of kindness a regular part of your life? Check out these great resources:
*For more on compassion fatigue, check out CredibleMind expert Dr. Kelsey Laird's explanation of why the term ‘compassion fatigue,’ although popular, is a misnomer. A more accurate term, she suggests, would be ‘Empathy Fatigue.’ Read more here in her section titled “What about Compassion Fatigue?”
 APA Dictionary of Psychology. (2021). kindness. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://dictionary.apa.org/kindness
 Cedars-Sinai Staff. (2019 Feb 13). The Science of Kindness. Cedars Sinai. Retrieved from www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/science-of-kindness.html
 Hopper, E. (2018 Sept 7). What Type of Kindness Will Make You Happiest? Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_types_of_kindness_will_make_you_happiest
 Greater Good in Action (2021). Random Acts of Kindness. Greater Good Science Center. Retrieved from https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/random_acts_of_kindness
 Ladwig, J. (2013 May 22). Brain can be trained in compassion, study shows. University of Wisconsin-Madison News. Retrieved from https://news.wisc.edu/brain-can-be-trained-in-compassion-study-shows
 Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. (2021). The Science of Kindness. Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/the-science-of-kindness