Kindness is a value we're taught as children. Be nice to others, treat others how you would like to be treated and so on. Both the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex have spoken about the importance of kindness. When Kate visited a school in north London, she gave a speech, saying: "My parents taught me about the importance of qualities like kindness, respect, and honesty, and I realise how central values like these have been to me throughout my life. That is why William and I want to teach our little children just how important these things are as they grow up. In my view it is just as important as excelling at maths or sport."
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And at the Fashion Awards, Meghan also noted just how "cool" it is to be kind. She may have been referring to fashion and the choices we make when we buy clothes, but her words ring true in every day life. "I recently read an article that said the culture of fashion has shifted from one where it was cool to be cruel, to now, where it is cool to be kind," Meghan said.
Here at HELLO!, we chatted to Dr Becky Spelman, who explained why it really is "cool to be kind" and the science behind it…
Both Kate and Meghan have spoken about the importance of being kind
Being kind releases endorphins
"Doing things for other people actually releases endorphins and boosts our serotonin – the neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of satisfaction and wellbeing," said Becky. "One study showed there is actually evidence that the neurotransmitter responsible for making us feel happy does get activated when people do nice things for other people. So there is actually science behind being kind. People get that feel-good feeling not by chance, but from brain chemistry."
Being kind promotes positive wellbeing and psychological health
Another study shows that being kind reduces our own anxiety, Becky said. Every time we do something nice, we feel a positive reward in our brain. "If we consistently do a few nice things then actually this can be part of maintaining positive wellbeing and psychological health," said Becky. "We're social creatures and need other people in our life, and it's quite powerful how we can feel from doing nice things for other people without even thinking about it."
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We can practice small acts of kindness that really won't take up our energy, time or money. "We can either live our lives being quite passive to strangers or loved ones and being caught up in our own stuff, or we can look out and notice other people and look out for opportunities where we can help others," said Becky.
Small actions include making someone a cup of tea, holding a door open, offering your seat on the tube, giving a stranger 20p to use the toilet in a train station, or simply smiling when you're ordering your coffee. "Nothing is too small – it's just about giving what we can and giving where we find it quite easy to give. It's very easy to hold a door for somebody, but it's also very easy not to," Becky explained. "If we can consistently get into the habit of making those efforts then it's quite interesting to see how it makes us feel. Nothing is too small and you can pretty much start anywhere."
Registered psychologist Dr Becky Spelman explains the science behind being kind
Being kind enhances our self-esteem
"We feel pleasure when we look back on positive things we've done, like an act of kindness," said Becky. "It really enhances our self-esteem because we think about ourselves in those situations and remember we did the right or the good thing. If we see ourselves as good people and we have things to reflect on and reference, then that's something we can continue to feel good about."
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Being kind has a domino effect
"When people do nice things for other people, they feel closer to them. Often this has a knock-on effect where the other person is nice or positive back to them. That means we're welcoming in this social closeness to our lives," said Becky. She added: "Whether they go on to be nice to other people, there isn't necessarily any science behind that. But there is, of course, a chance. It can send a subliminal message of, 'Let's all act like this and the world can be a better place.' I think it's quite safe to assume that if we act in a certain way, that we are going to influence some people to do certain things."
Becky concluded: "My message for anyone who wants to implement more kindness in their life is don't do it because it might help you or change the world, just do it because it's something that's actually quite easy to do. The most power will come when the act is truly altruistic, not just, 'I'm doing it because I want to get ahead in life or I want something back.' Thinking about where we can achieve more kindness in our life just for the sake of it is a really nice thing to do and there's definitely psychological, health benefits to it."
Make a stand. Say #HelloToKindness. Post your own kind message on Instagram today and tag @HelloMag.