Practicing Kindness: A Wonderful Way to Care for Your Brain

· November 26, 2016
Although sometimes it might be hard to believe, we are “programmed” to be kind. And not only that, but practicing kindness is good for your health.

Practicing kindness in your day-to-day life is a way to create more respectful and sensitive interactions. Plus, actions that are driven by the desire to simply “do good” result in better mental health.

Kindness Matters

You’ve probably already thought that planting good seeds won’t always guarantee you a harvest of respect.

However, while you might have experienced more than one betrayal and a few disappointments in your life, there’s one aspect that is certain: you can live a better life if you maintain harmony between what you feel and what you do.

Believe it or not, the human brain is genetically programmed to want to perform good deeds. However, it doesn’t seem this way because other biological tendencies like envy and resentment can sometimes weigh on you more heavily.

Today, we’d like to take a look at this interesting topic.

Your Brain Understands that Kindness is Important

mindfulness

Jerome Kagan is a well-known professor at Harvard University who specializes in what’s known as the “psychology of kindness.”

According to Kagan, humanity is genetically programmed to do good. Essentially, we come into this world with a special “software” installed. This encourages us to practice kindness.

Why is this?

Let’s take a look.

See also: Four Buddhist Teachings About Love

Practicing Kindness Enables Us to Survive as a Species

In his day, Charles Darwin formulated the same thesis that Professor Kagan did. The human brain is programmed to practice kindness because it guarantees the survival of the species.

In addition, kind acts enable us to understand that people have a much greater chance of survival if we support one another in a group rather than living in solitude.

Humans are empathetic because this enables them to identify the needs of others, therefore allowing them to provide assistance and ensuring the survival of the species.

watering flowers representing practicing kindness

But Why Does Kindness Seem to Be So Rare?

It’s interesting to know that, while people are generally programmed to do good, behavior up to this point in society has instead put the balance of the planet at risk.

Wars, environmental pollution, social inequalities, attacks against human rights…

Why do people act this way?

David Keltner, a professor at the University of Berkeley and the director of the Center for Kindness Studies, has a possible answer. He explains that the way our society works has inclined us to be more focused on individualism rather than group consciousness.

When people begin to think in terms of their own interests, the biological balance is tipped toward envy, rage, violence, and competition. It hardly ever tips towards kindness.

Kindness and the desire to promote good things are not useful if you only wish to elevate your status with more wealth and social recognition.

Also read: 5 Surprising Things That Cause Anxiety

Practicing Kindness is Good for Your Brain

Psychological conditions such as resentment, envy, or the stress of continuous competition affect your physical and emotional health.

Everyone at some point in their lives has been carried away by these personal vices. When this happens, you gradually become aware of the fact that acting or feeling this way is wrong. After all, it distances you from your essence and your roots.

However, your brain knows full well that these biological tendencies towards negative actions keep you from connecting with others. Likewise, they will lead to deep and unpleasant loneliness.

handful of flowers for practicing kindness

Practicing kindness has a positive effect on your inner balance. It brings you peace and well-being.

It doesn’t matter if other people aren’t even aware of the small acts of kindness that you practice each day. You’re aware of it, and that’s enough because it allows you to live in harmony.

Kindness and the Brain

Kindness and compassion light up powerful regions of the limbic system of the brain. A compassionate person is more intuitive, more responsive, and more aware of everything that surrounds them.

You might not see actions charged with respect and genuine kindness all around you. However, this shouldn’t make you give up or mimic that same neglect.

Believe it or not, practicing kindness is contagious. Don’t forget that you can be the best example for your children, friends, and family.

Small actions can go a long way. If everyone promotes daily kindness, we’ll see some excellent long-term results.

Isen, A. M., & Levin, P. F. (1972). Effect of feeling good on helping: Cookies and kindness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0032317

Otake, K., Shimai, S., Tanaka-Matsumi, J., Otsui, K., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2006). Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting kindnesses intervention. Journal of Happiness Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-005-3650-z