“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
A quick peek at the news is enough to show that we are living in a time of major conflict. Some of the loudest voices popularize the idea that strength is in violence, intimidation, and self-interest.
In response, University of California, Los Angeles recently opened the Bedari Kindness Institute, the world’s first institute to study kindness. The goal is to inspire and empower people to build more humane societies.
So, does kindness really make us stronger? The answer appears to be in our biology. Here are five findings on the science of kindness.
- Kindness is a natural preference. Researchers have found at least three genes that might influence how we are biologically wired to prefer kindness.
- These kindness genes impact our brain chemistry. When we give or receive kindness, our brains release chemicals that make us feel good: opiates, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin.
- These “feel good” chemicals combine to give us an overall sense of happiness. They provide myriad health benefits, such as alleviating stress and stress-related conditions, improving mood, reducing pain, improving strength, and much more.
- In particular, oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” that promotes social bonding, self-esteem, and optimism. This helps us individually and strengthens our connections to one another. It stimulates feelings of empathy and causes us to be more likely to pass that kindness on to others.
- Researchers believe we evolved to prefer kindness after our early ancestors realized survival was easier when they worked together.