Being kinder is not about making sacrifices or denying your own needs. Treating people kindly is not an imposition or another task on your checklist.
It’s the outward manifestation of living positively. Kindness is all about mindset, and you can train your brain to make kindness almost automatic. Ever notice that being kind to someone makes you feel good too? It’s because altruism promotes a chemical reaction in your brain, releasing serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. These chemicals make you feel good but also work to reinforce positive social behavior. By laying down new neural pathways, you set yourself up for living a positive, kinder life.
Here are some scientifically proven tips for engineering kindness into your brain.
- Choose to be kind
In choosing to be kind, you are consciously resetting your mindset to treat people with compassion and empathy. Notice the effect of your kindness on others. When you smile, people’s natural reaction is to smile back. You set up a kindness loop that keeps on paying itself forward!
When you choose to be kind, regardless of how you are feeling, it will turn even a miserable day into a brighter one. Acts of kindness sends the message to your brain that all is well, and before you know it you’ll be feeling more cheerful.
- Do more random acts of kindness
Studies have shown that carrying out five random acts of kindness every week is the single most effective way of increasing your happiness. Anything from buying a complete stranger a cup of coffee, to letting another driver into the traffic, or mowing your neighbor’s lawn will make you and the other guy feel good.
- Be kind to yourself.
Self-kindness starts with noticing your self-talk. Are you encouraging or judging? Do you start from a position of ‘yes you can’ or ‘you’ll never do it’? Pay attention to that voice in your head, and change the script to kindness.
Build little acts of self-care into your day. Reward successes, big and small. Take time to do the things that make you feel good. Make sure you get enough sleep, stay hydrated and have a nutritious diet.
- Practice gratitude
Make it a daily practice to count your blessings. Research has shown you will be happier when you notice the good things in your life and practice gratitude. The outcome is so marked that it changes your brain structure! Brain scans have shown the effect of mindfulness and gratitude. The part of the brain that reacts to stress shrinks, while the regions associated with self-awareness and compassion grow.