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Acts of kindness and compassion

4-minute read

Key facts

  • Being kind and compassionate can help other people — it can make you feel good too.
  • The more you give, no matter how small, the more positive you feel, fuelling greater contentment.
  • There are many ways to be kind and compassionate.

Benefits of kindness and compassion

Research is showing that people who are kind and compassionate are more content with their lives. They have better physical and mental health and feel less isolated, fostering stronger relationships.

Small acts of kindness, such as a smile, or 'hello' can have enormous power. The person being kind and the recipient can both benefit. You can be kind, generous and compassionate to someone you know, or to a stranger.

Studies have shown benefits from kindness, compassion and giving. The benefits can be:

  • greater sense of contentment or wellbeing
  • good mental health
  • less stress
  • better relationships and connection to common humanity

The happiness people get from giving to others can make a 'positive feedback loop'. The more you give, the more positive you feel. This, in turn, fuels greater contentment or wellbeing.

One kind act leads to others. People who see someone being kind and caring are also more likely to be kind themselves. People who are on the receiving end of someone's kindness can also become kinder and more compassionate.

What is positive psychology?

'Positive psychology' tries to understand what makes individuals and communities strong and vibrant. It looks into what things and actions make people have a satisfying life.

One way to use positive psychology is to do random acts of kindness. These can be things like:

  • Paying it forward — give someone a treat, like buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you in the café.
  • Sending notes saying thanks — write a thank you note to someone you admire or who has helped you out.
  • Posting a sticky note — stick post-it notes with nice messages written on them around your house or somewhere in public.
  • Volunteering — being a volunteer helps others and is good for you too.
  • Donating to a charity store — help people out by giving away what you don't want or need anymore.
  • Smiling or greeting strangers — smiles are contagious — it makes you feel good if people smile back.
  • Letting people know you love what they do — this could be someone you know or admire, like a teacher or musician.

Kindness and compassion during recovery

Almost everybody feels good when someone is kind to them. This may be especially true for people:

Acts of kindness and compassion — both giving and receiving — can increase wellbeing. Wellbeing is when you feel healthy and content. Wellbeing can make you feel like you have a sense of purpose. You can feel like you matter and are able to make a difference.

Helping someone increase their wellbeing can help them and you feel better. It can help you get over feelings of loneliness and isolation. It can help you build healthy relationships. It can also help improve your self-esteem.

There are many ways to be kind and compassionate to someone who needs help. These include:

  • being sensitive and sympathetic by listening rather than advice giving
  • helping them feel positive, pointing out their strengths
  • helping them feel they have hope
  • noticing and supporting positive changes they make
  • helping them solve problems
  • helping them to reduce stress
  • helping with practical things, like going to appointments

Resources and support

The World Kindness Movement promotes a friendlier society through acts of kindness.

Random Acts of Kindness Foundation — get inspired with kindness ideas or share your own story.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2023

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