Be kind. Something of a cliché, or an essential mantra for life? Here’s what the evidence tells us.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

The Dalai Lama

The theme of mental health awareness week, this week, is ‘kindness’. The ‘be kind’ mantra has become something of a cliche in the last couple of years – but like many cliches, it has a useful basis.

What does the research tell us about the value of kindness? Here are three examples.

  • People who were treated kindly at work repaid it by being 278% more generous to coworkers compared to a control group (Chancellor et al 2018)
  • Kindness creates less loneliness, with stronger immune system and overall health (Post 2005)
  • Helping others protects from heart disease twice as much as aspirin (Post & Neimark 2007)

There is good evidence that we can learn to be kinder. Practicing kindness actually grows parts of the brain that govern positive affect, love and affiliation…and so it benefits the practitioner as well as the recipients.

Here’s a practice from the Greater Good Science Centre that you could try, that not only boosts self-compassion, but reduces anxiety.

Hugging a tree is optional, but may also help.

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