There’s every reason in the world to be kind to others—your co-workers, your friends, your neighbors, and everyone you meet. However, recent studies show that when you are kind to others, you will benefit, too.
According to research conducted by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at University of California, Riverside, when students were assigned to do five random acts of kindness per week for a period of six weeks, their levels of happiness increased by 41.66%.
Being kind has a profoundly positive effect on happiness. So when you make kindness a habit, you’ll be happier as a result. Here are seven ways to do just that.
1. Mean Everything You Do
As crazy as it seems, the easiest way to make something a habit is to find a reason why you’re doing the action in the first place. When you compliment people on their clothing or when you congratulate a friend for receiving an amazing job offer, don’t immediately retract your statement with recoiling feelings of resentment. You said it because you meant it; wouldn’t it feel great to show appreciation again?
2. Realize That Kindness Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult
There are ways to be kind all around us, hiding right under our noses. People often think that the only route to kindness is long and elaborate, but what they don’t realize is that we can all take little steps to ensure we are being kind every single day. Leave the door open for the person behind you. Ask your morning barista how her day is going. The smallest words may seem insignificant, but there’s a very good reason why the little things take you far in life.
3. Set a Goal of Compassion Each Morning
When you wake up, make sure to decide on one specific action you will do to be kind that day. As with developing any habit, increasing our kindness requires an active effort. Goal setting is an easy way to spur our success. Finding one reason to be kind every day can be an important wake-up call to remind ourselves of all the good in our lives.
4. Show Appreciation
Perhaps the most easily forgotten trait of kindness is appreciation, since we have been taught to do it so often that we just take it for granted. Saying a simple “thank you” takes less than 10 seconds to do, but its impact can have long lasting effects. We never know how much better a simple phrase will make someone feel, so thank your co-workers for the things they do for you—no matter how small. Eventually, they’ll begin finding reasons to thank you, too.
5. Find a Cause
It’s important to find things we believe in to demonstrate our goodwill. Finding something you believe in—whether it be a conversation, a charity, or helping a friend talk through his or her problems—makes everything that much more enjoyable. After all, who doesn’t love being kind?
6. Be Kind to Yourself
In all the hubbub of helping everyone else, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. We are all important, special people—and we deserve to be treated with that kind of respect. It’s hard to remember to do this when things get tough, but the only real way to help others is by helping ourselves first. So, be kind to yourself. Your mind and your body will thank you.
7. Smile More
Perhaps the easiest thing to do of all, smiling gives the strongest impression of kindness. Even if you sometimes have trouble accessing the energy to light up with a grin, making a conscious effort to smile tells your audience without words that you are trying to exert a kind gesture. If a stranger’s smile has ever made you give one in return, don’t hesitate. Smile. The small act of kindness may make your day.
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