avatarSerhii Mikulenko


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Be Kinder to Yourself and Others: Secrets of a Happy Life

Discover how kindness transforms lives, improves well-being, and fosters positive relationships in this insightful guide to being kinder

In my journey from being a marathon runner to navigating the complexities of life, I’ve learned that real success isn’t just about physical endurance or achievements. It’s about the power of kindness — toward ourselves and others. This shift in perspective has been transformative, showing me that compassion is crucial for a fulfilling life. In this article, I explore the importance of kindness, backed by science and personal insights, and how we can all cultivate it. Join me in understanding why being kind is not just good for others, but essential for our own well-being.

Why It Pays to Be Kinder

In the fast-paced world of today, personal gain and material wealth are often exalted. However, kindness can yield far greater benefits.

Kindness Enhances Well-being

Kindness and self-compassion involve the ability to refrain from harsh criticism, recognize our human nature and its imperfections, not suppress negative emotions, and not dwell on them.

This attitude fosters a sense of well-being and offers the same benefits for psychological comfort as high self-esteem. Moreover, unlike the latter, kindness to oneself does not depend on success and achievements, does not require self-assertion, and does not compare with others. In other words, it’s a more stable positive feeling that isn’t shattered by failures.

A meta-analysis of 23 scientific studies confirmed that kindness and compassion, cultivated through meditation, significantly increase life satisfaction.

Kindness Fosters Healthy Relationships

An experiment revealed that participants who showed more kindness and compassion to themselves had a more positive interaction with their partner, regardless of their self-esteem and attachment type.

Furthermore, warm relationships and overall social support increase the sense of well-being, reduce the risk of diseases, and extend lifespan. Scientists believe this happens because socializing reduces stress and helps regulate the immune response.

Kindness Feels Good

One study examined what happened in the brains of people when they performed a kind act — anonymously donating to charity. It was found that during such an act, the reward system in the participants’ brains was activated — a set of structures that light up when something pleasant occurs.

Another scientific paper noted that people find it more enjoyable to spend money on others than on themselves. This makes them happier, both in the short term and in the long run.

Being Kind is Good for Health

A meta-analysis of 22 scientific studies has shown that meditation on loving-kindness and compassion, aimed at developing these qualities, is beneficial for depression and increases positivity in people’s lives. Such practices effectively reduce stress levels, improve mental health, and combat inflammation in the body.

One study examined how personal well-being and helping others affect cytokine levels — indicators of inflammation in the body. Among 122 participants, those who pursued happiness through compassion and altruism had lower cytokine levels, suggesting that less self-focus and more other-focus can reduce inflammation.

Since inflammation is directly linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer, kindness can protect against these conditions. Another experiment confirmed that helping others doesn’t increase stress-related mortality risks, unlike selfish behaviors.

Can Kindness Be Cultivated?

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Indeed, it can. Developing kindness and compassion is like muscle training — you might notice some changes after the first session, but significant, lasting changes require regular practice.

Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison experimented with a Buddhist technique — compassion meditation — and achieved excellent results. Participants meditated for 30 minutes daily for two weeks, focusing on wishing relief from suffering for close ones, strangers, and even disliked individuals. This contrasted with a control group that focused on positivity.

The experiment concluded that participants who practiced compassion meditation were more generous and felt greater compassion towards others, including those suffering, as shown in MRI brain scans. These scans revealed changes in brain function associated with social cognition and emotional regulation, indicating that even short-term meditation can make people kinder and more compassionate.

How to Become Kinder

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Understanding that kindness to others starts with self-love is crucial. Interestingly, the practice of loving-kindness and compassion meditation begins with self-directed wishes. This technique, detailed in Mingyur Yongey’s book “The Joy of Living,” involves several steps:

  • Preparation. Find a quiet place, free from distractions. Sit comfortably but alertly, and spend some time relaxing and observing your breath and sensations.
  • Love and Compassion Towards Oneself. Wish for your happiness and freedom from suffering, using any preferred formulation.
  • Love and Compassion Towards Loved Ones. Focus on loved ones, wishing them happiness and freedom from suffering.
  • Love and Compassion Towards Unliked Individuals. Try to wish well for those you do not like, understanding that their behavior may stem from deep-seated suffering.
  • Boundless Love and Compassion. Wish for all beings to be happy and free from suffering, visualizing global suffering being transformed into peace.

This practice doesn’t require dedicating a lot of time; starting with just two minutes a day can make a difference. Linking the practice to daily activities, like dishwashing or receiving phone notifications, can help integrate kindness into your life.

As we conclude this exploration into the power of kindness, remember that every act of compassion, no matter how small, contributes to a larger wave of positive change in our world. Just as the discipline of marathon running taught me the value of persistence and resilience, the practice of kindness teaches us the strength of empathy and connection. Let’s challenge ourselves to be kinder, not as a task, but as a way of life that enriches us all. Start with a simple act of kindness today, and watch its ripple effect transform your world. Together, we can make the marathon of life a journey worth running, filled with moments of genuine connection and compassion.

If you found this article engaging, I warmly invite you to explore my dedicated collection on “Exploring Boundaries.” Dive into a diverse range of topics, from productivity hacks to personal development and futuristic sports. Discover insightful perspectives that challenge conventional wisdom and expand your horizons. Join me for an enriching journey of exploration and discovery.

Mental Health
Self Care
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