“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
Why does kindness matter?
When you act kindly toward others, the benefits go both ways. Small, thoughtful acts—like helping, sharing, listening, or teaching—can change both how you are perceived and how you see yourself. When children are encouraged to be kind, their peers want to spend more time around them. Not only does kindness strengthen social relationships, but it also can show that your choices have an impact and that you have valuable skills (like the ability to make friends. In short, being kind to others is also being kind to yourself.
Think about yourself. How many of these things are true?
I pay attention to what other people want or need to try to figure out how I can help.
I go out of my way to do favors for others, speak up to support them, share what I have, or simply listen when they need a friend.
I consciously make small sacrifices to be kind to others, like taking a few minutes to do an extra chore or listening to a story even if am not in the mood for it.
I try to think about how much my actions mean to others instead of how much of a burden they are for me.
How do I encourage kindness in others?
Model it. When being helpful to others, talk about why you’re doing it. Try to include the cue for the behavior and what outcome you anticipate: “I noticed that you all seem a little down today because it is Monday, so I decided to give the class an extra five minutes of free time to talk to the people around you. I hope that this can help you feel a little more awake and excited to work.” Point out things you notice about others, and brainstorm together about things that you can do. “I notice that Grandma is unhappy when her house is messy. What do you think I could do to help her?”
Celebrate it. When you notice kind behavior, try to make clear why it’s so generous. “I saw that you gave your seat up on the bus for the older gentleman. That was very thoughtful of you to choose to stand so that he could sit. I am sure that you helped give him a rest.” Work with the young people in your life to become “kindness detectives” who are constantly alert to others’ needs or wants. Regularly recounting kind acts before bedtime can help process what it means to be a person who helps others.
Enable it. Making “If ___, then ___” plans can support habit formation. For example: “If someone is walking behind me through a door, then I will hold the door for them.” Planning what to do in future situations can make the decision happen more naturally when they arise.
About the Authors
Julia Revord, M.A., is a doctoral student at the University of California, Riverside. She is an avid learner whose research seeks to question assumptions underlying much of social psychological research. Currently, she is interested in revisiting affective measures and definitions, and designing intervention studies that leverage resources to answer more questions.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., is a professor and vice chair of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and author of The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness. Lyubomirsky’s research focuses on the benefits of happiness, why some people are happier than others, and how generosity, connection, and gratitude can be increased.