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Acts of kindness and compassion

3-minute read

Research is showing that people who are kind and compassionate are more satisfied with their lives, have better physical and mental health, and have stronger relationships. Being kind and compassionate can help other people, and make you feel good too.

Kindness and compassion during recovery

Almost everybody feels good when someone is kind to them. This is especially true for those who are vulnerable, like people who are recovering from a mental illness like depression, or who are learning to live with dementia, or who have an addiction.

Acts of kindness and compassion can increase wellbeing and help their recovery. It can also help them overcome loneliness and isolation, build healthy relationships and improve their self-esteem.

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

  • being sensitive and sympathetic
  • creating a positive outlook and instilling hope
  • recognising and validating positive changes
  • helping them solve problems
  • helping to reduce stress
  • helping with practical things, like medicines and appointments

Benefits of kindness and compassion

Small acts of kindness can have enormous power for both the person being kind and the recipient, whether that’s a stranger or someone in the same family. Many studies have found that kindness, compassion and giving are associated with:

  • improved happiness
  • good mental health
  • a stronger immune system
  • reduced anxiety, stress and depression
  • improved relationships
  • a longer life

Research also shows that the happiness people get from giving to others creates a ‘positive feedback loop’. The more you give, the more positive you feel. This, in turn, fuels greater happiness.

People who witness or benefit from someone’s kindness and compassion are also more likely to be kind themselves.

You can be kind, generous and compassionate to someone you know, or to a stranger.

Positive psychology is dedicated to researching what makes individuals and communities flourish. Popular positive psychology techniques include random acts of kindness, like:

  • paying it forward – treat someone to something, like buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you in the café queue
  • sending notes of gratitude – hand-write a thank you note to someone you admire or who has helped you out
  • post 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 no longer want or need
  • smiling at strangers – smiling is contagious and it makes you feel good if people smile back
  • letting people know you love what they do – this could be someone you know or people you admire, like a writer or musician

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Last reviewed: May 2020

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