I’m just going to say it. This world needs more kindness. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, we as a species forgot how to be kind. The thing is though, there is a direct scientific connection between kindness and happiness. And guess what? It’s FREE! So what better gift to give, and act of kindness to perform, than teaching your children to get in the habit of being kind.
Don’t believe me? A study out of the University of British Columbia showed that young children got high satisfaction and happiness from acts of kindness, even more so than from being on the receiving end. That study said “consistent with this hypothesis, the present study finds that before the age of two, toddlers exhibit greater happiness when giving treats to others than receiving treats themselves. Further, children are happier after engaging in costly giving – forfeiting their own resources – than when giving the same treat at no cost.” (Aknin LB, Hamlin JK, Dunn EW (2012) Giving Leads to Happiness in Young Children. PLoS ONE 7(6): e39211.)
Kindness Does a Body Good
Your child’s physical health can be helped greatly over their lifetime by instilling the habit of performing acts of kindness. Kindness has been shown to decrease blood pressure because of increased vascular dilation. This is due to the release of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.” Acts of kindness affect the levels of neurotransmitters in a child’s brain. Cortisol levels are decreased which are directly related to the stress of the child. Serotonin which regulates mood is boosted. Serotonin is the body's natural antidepressant. It produces happy feelings and calms the child down. Kindness also boosts dopamine levels which leads to increased feelings of satisfaction, pleasure, and reward in the brain. It even increases endorphins, which are the body's natural painkiller, and gives the child a sense of euphoria for what they are doing. Basically, what I’m saying is that performing acts of kindness releases all kinds of natural chemicals in your brain that make you feel really good.
Kindness Is Good For Your Mind And Soul
In addition to all those chemicals that are making you feel so happy, performing acts of kindness also leads to increases in self-esteem. After all, when you feel good and feel like you are making a difference in someone's life, your confidence skyrockets. It also lowers feelings of depression and loneliness while at the same time increasing life satisfaction. In performing these acts of kindness your children are building connections to others. The increased feeling of being connected to others will improve your child’s mood, empathy, and compassion. Anxiety is also decreased from acts of kindness with decreases of social avoidance.
A great way to jumpstart this good habit is by modeling the behavior yourself. Actively practicing kindness with and in front of your children, will help them normalize this behavior and make it a part of their everyday life. In fact, even when they are not the ones performing the acts of kindness, studies have shown that the positive effects of kindness occur even by just seeing them done. The release of all the beneficial neurotransmitters and hormones will leave your child feeling better about themselves and will grant them a more positive outlook on life in general. And who doesn’t want that!
Looking for other ways to encourage kindness in kids? Check out our SUNCards! SUNCards™ are decks of cards that were developed by a 10 year old girl, and use evidence based strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, positive psychology, and random acts of kindness to help kids manage their anxiety. They feature lovable monsters who share confidence building positive affirmations, and helpful tasks for redirection. Best of all, for every deck purchased another deck is donated to a nonprofit that serves kids.