A paper published in the Psychological Bulletin this summer looked at research to figure out how kindness and feeling good are related. It showed a link between the two. The research only concerned adults. But Jenny Friedman, executive director of an organization called Doing Good Together, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says the benefits of being kind can apply to people of all ages.
“It can make us feel like we’re able to make a difference,” Friedman says. “It can help with our self-esteem. It can foster a sense of responsibility. It can get us to spend time with people we might not normally — to see that we’re not so different.
“However old you are right now,” she says. “That’s the best time to start.”
However, Friedman notes that a 2014 survey of 10,000 middle school and high school students showed that 80 percent of them said their personal happiness was more important than caring about other people. Why? Because they thought that’s what was important to their parents. So Friedman suggests getting your family involved in being kind together. That way you can all receive the benefits.
Being kind can be as simple as agreeing to help make dinner, or taking on chores that would lighten your family’s workload — just ask them.
You could broaden your kindness to your neighborhood by picking up five pieces of litter each time you go for a walk, Friedman says. Or you could offer to help a neighbor by walking her dog.
You can take your kindness a step further into the broader community; perhaps the residents of a senior center would appreciate handwritten notes. Friedman says this is likely now, when so many older people are isolated from their families because of the pandemic.
Many families are struggling with food insecurity, which is not having reliable access to food. Another way to show kindness is to pick an item to donate to a local food pantry each time you get groceries, Friedman says. Or you could organize your own food drive to collect food for needy people.
“Not having enough to eat is an issue that gets to a lot of kids,” Friedman says. And during the pandemic, especially, “it’s been heartening to see how much people are stepping up and trying to do.”
Whatever causes inspire you, Friedman says, start with those. The sooner you get going, the sooner you, your family and the other people you treat with kindness will start to feel a whole lot better.