“Kindness” is Simple. Free. Powerful.

Kindness is “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

I am fortunate in my life to be surrounded by amazing people and have lots of examples of times people have gifted me with acts of kindness. It goes without saying that showing and receiving kindness makes everyone feel valued (which can provide effective leverage against certain depressive symptoms).

Here is one particular story that I like to reflect on:

Some time ago, I had the privilege of performing stand-up at Yuk Yuks in Saint John, NB to a packed crowd. Further, I learned in the Green Room that the event was being emceed by professional comedian, Garrett Clark. Needless to say, feeling “scared” was an understatement. I was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack.

So Garrett walked in and greeted us immediately – chopping away at the fear and anxiety that filled the room (as there were some first-timers performing). He greeted every person with a handshake, a genuine smile and words of encouragement. This in turn gifted me with confidence and a sense of assurance that it was all going to work out. Little did I know leading up to it, this would prove to be the most memorable night of my stand-up ‘career’. After it was all said and done, I felt on top of the world.

Needless to say, Garrett’s simple act of kindness had a profound impact on me that day. I felt encouraged and this made me feel good about myself – proud that I stayed committed to achieving my goal. It made me feel valued. In fact, I felt emotions that for a short time muted any presence of depressive symptoms I may have been feeling that day.

So how could something as simple as being friendly and generous have such a profound impact?

Well, it turns out there’s some science behind it: Long story short, research studies show that exhibiting acts of kindness can reduce (social) anxiety in people (1) and enhance serotonin production which elevates mood (2). I think it would be fair to say that we need not dwell too much on the science considering that we can all relate to the power of kindness.

Gifting someone with kindness can provide tremendous leverage against mental illness. The best part: everyone benefits and it doesn’t cost a thing.

 “When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.” 

– Dalai Lama

References:

  1. Alden LE and Trew JL. If it makes you happy: engaging in kind acts increases positive affect in socially anxious individuals. February 2013; 13(1):64-75.
  2. Breazeale, R. Practicing Acts of Kindness. Psychology Today, November 20, 2012.