Kindness is Magic

To me, kindness is magic. It’s like having a bag of fairy dust that you can sprinkle anywhere you go. And what you leave behind is pure goodness that continues to swirl and dance and proliferate, touching more lives than you can count. I like magic. I have a 6-year-old daughter so my days are filled with fairies, rainbows, potions, and unicorns. For me, magic is enough of a reason for practicing kindness as much as I am able to. But, recently, I’ve been more interested in the science of compassion. I want to be able to explain to others (who may not believe in unicorns) that being kind is the best gift we can give to ourselves and others. After doing some research, I found many facts that completely blew my mind. Here are just three of them.

FACT 1: Kindness is good for your health

People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other factor such as physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.

FACT 2: Kindness feels good

Studies have shown that performing or even witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving your overall heart-health. Oxytocin also induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others. When you are kind to another, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers actually light up. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high”, and those people on a helper’s high can potentially jumpstart a virtuous cycle, where one person’s generous behavior triggers another’s.

FACT 3: Kindness breeds more kindness

In a study conducted by University of San Diego and Harvard Medical School, volunteers participated in games that involved the giving of money to a common fund. Whatever they gave to the common fund would be multiplied by two-fifths, then divided equally among the group. The best payoff would come if everyone gave their money, but without knowing what others would do, it made the most sense to keep all or most of one’s money and skim from the generosity of others. However, the results showed that when one person gave, others in their group tended to be generous during the next rounds. In fact, the researchers concluded that each person in a network could influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom they’ve never met.

These facts are astounding and proof that we should all practice kindness. But to me, they don’t even begin to explain the immeasurable magnitude of kindness. How can we quantify how many lives are touched by the school janitor who makes all the kids laugh? How can we prove the effect that one teacher had on the child who pursued her dreams because of a single act of encouragement? How do we even begin to track the beautiful chain of events that continues on and on because of one smile? Our lives are made of tiny moments that intermingle with the tiny moments of other lives. We’re a complex web of human intentions, actions, and reactions. I don’t think that we can package all of this up into tidy facts and figures, or numbers or words. . .unless that word is magic. And if kindness is magic, then what that proves to us is we are all capable of working magic.

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