Real talk: The world is kind of a mess right now. And some of the struggles that we’re facing seem so monumental that it’s easy to feel down about the current state of affairs. But rest assured—there are things you can do to help those around you. You can sign petitions. You can donate money. You can practice social distancing to keep vulnerable people safe. And may we offer another suggestion? You can be kind.
Every time you do something nice for others—without expecting anything in return—you make the world just that much better. Are we saying that putting change in someone else’s parking meter is going to solve the world’s problems? Obviously not. But it will make someone’s day a little brighter. And here’s the funny thing about kindness: It’s contagious. That person might just pay it forward and do something considerate or charitable for somebody else, who might do the same and so on and so forth. (Also, being unkind is the opposite of helpful, yes?)
Here’s another cool fact about being kind to others. It doesn’t just benefit them—it will also do good things for you. “Most people around the globe want to be happier,” says Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, University of California Riverside Professor of Psychology and author of The Myths of Happiness. “And one of the most powerful ways [to do that] is actually to make someone else happier by being kind and generous to them.”
Here are three ways that being kind to others can benefit yourself, per Lyubomirsky. “First it can make you happier. Studies show that being kind to others can make you feel good as a person and helps strengthen your relationships.” It’s not exactly clear why this is, but researchers suspect that being generous gives people a sense of doing something that matters. This in turn boosts their mood. “Secondly, practicing kindness can turn your genes on and off. A recent study suggests this can be linked to a stronger immune system.” And, thirdly, in case you need further convincing to just be nice to people, acts of kindness can actually make you more popular. A study of kids aged 9 to 11 showed that simple acts of generosity made them better liked by classmates.