The dictionary meaning of kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. It refers to actions intended to benefit others. It is a combination of emotional, behavioural and motivational components (Otake et al., 2006).
The emotion of compassion underlies a kind act. It is possible that helping others makes us happy, but it could also be that when we are happy, it makes us helpful. For example, studies indicate how prosocial behaviour has a strong positive association with peer acceptance and this relationship is likely bidirectional.
Kindness can be in the form of compassion towards others or the self. So, be it opening a door for a stranger or treating oneself, both are kind acts. However, some studies have found helping others to lead to greater psychological well-being than being kind towards self.
Kindness can create a domino effect. Even people who watch an act of kindness are likely to assist somebody in the future. Acts of kindness can boost the well-being not only of the recipient but also the actor. So it seems like a win-win situation.
Kindness can encourage social bonds, build trust and acceptance between people, and enable helpers to use and develop personal skills. Being kind also helps release feel-good hormones and one might experience what may be called “helper’s high”. It has also been linked to an increase in levels of energy and a positive mood. It may also help lower anxiety and stress levels. Thus it helps promote not just physical but also mental well-being.
Research reflects the positive effects that kind acts can have on our behaviour, and it would be worthwhile to take such research forward and further explore the same.