What is Kindness in Psychology? (Incl. Activities + Quotes)

kindnessHow have you shown kindness to someone today? How has someone else been kind to you?

With the increased acknowledgment that bullying behavior is a widespread epidemic in workplaces and schools, the need to reclaim our kindness roots is imperative.

Worldwide efforts to shine a light on kindness have led to the development of kindness curriculums and days devoted to celebrating kindness and compassion.

There are countless organizations whose entire mission is to spread kindness. As you read this article, you’ll learn about several of them. You’ll also learn about ordinary people doing ordinary things with extraordinary results.

Along the way, we’ll ask you to contribute your knowledge in the comments. Sharing your book recommendations, and acts of kindness suggestions might inspire others. Let’s create a ripple that becomes a wave we all can ride.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Relationships Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients build healthy, life-enriching relationships.

What is the Meaning of Kindness? (Incl. Definition)

Is kindness simply the act of being nice to someone or is there more to it? How is it the same or different than altruism? Can a person be kind without wanting something in return? Is being kind a service to others, to self, or both?

These are the questions posed by philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and theologians. No one has the answers, but many have attempted finding insights through experiments. These experiments seek to better understand what drives altruistic behavior in individuals.

Some researchers have found that human’s seek cooperation. We want to get along. When tested using a Public Goods Game approach, Rand, Greene, and Nowak (2012) learned that faster decisions led to more cooperation. From their perspective, this happens because longer decision making involves careful deliberation. When we’re asked to make a decision right now our actions are more intuitive.

Their work is an excellent starting point for this subject, but we’ll begin with a definition of kindness. For this, let’s review one provided by Pam (2013) in the Psychology Dictionary online.

It is a benevolent and helpful action intentionally directed towards another person, it is motivated by the desire to help another and not to gain explicit reward or to avoid explicit punishment.

“The desire to help another” makes one think of compassion which involves taking action to reduce suffering.

What then, is altruism? The essence of altruistic behavior is selflessness. A person acts in service to others without regard for their own wellbeing or needs (Oxford Living Dictionaries, 2019). For example, an elderly person enters a crowded subway train. There are no seats available. Seeing this, a stranger picks up his overloaded tool bag from the floor, stands, and offers his seat. This behavior could be altruistic.

Is altruism an innate trait? Humans, according to Hepach, Vaish, and Tomasello (2012) have a genuine concern for others and this starts as early as the toddler years. Some refute this and research is ongoing (Pletti, Scheel, & Paulus, 2017).

No discussion about kindness is complete without including the work of Hans Selye. He argued that to reduce the negative effects of everyday stressors, we need to do good for others. In The Stress of Life, he suggests that in doing so our physiological responses to stress change. He advocated for altruistic egoism (Jackson, 2012).

Altruistic egoism at its core means that in order for one to be happy and healthy, one must help others. Love and gratitude for others lead to greater feelings of satisfaction and security (Luks & Payne, 2001).

For now, our focus is exploring the benefits of kindness as it relates to self and others. We’ll also take a look at possible shortcomings of being kind. If you’re curious about the relationship between kindness and compassion, we’ll touch on that, too.

A Look at the Psychology of Kindness

The Psychology of KindnessAre unhappy people kind?

Can unhappy people become kind?

Are happy people kinder than unhappy people?

Again, we can look to research for insights into the connection between these traits. But first, what type of happiness are we talking about? Does it matter?

Hedonic happiness is about the self. From this perspective, we want to increase pleasure and avoid pain. This is the most basic way to view hedonia while eudaimonic happiness includes self and others. Its focus is meaning and self-realization with a definition of wellbeing based on “the degree to which a person is fully functioning (Ryan & Deci, 2001).

There is a connection between the two, but research definitions are sometimes vague. To address this, Huta and Waterman (2014) suggested new terminology and classifications. They are:

  • Degree of centrality – Are the concepts core, close-to-core, and major correlates?
  • Category of analysis – Does the definition represent orientations, values, motives, or goals?
  • Level of measurement – Is the definition used for trait and/or state comparisons?
  • For our purposes, we’re exploring the relationship between eudaimonic happiness and kindness.

Otake, Shimai, Tanaka-Matsumi, Otsui, and Fredrickson (2006) describe kindness as combining three components.

  1. The motivation to be kind to others
  2. Recognition of kindness in others
  3. Engaging in kind behavior daily

In their investigations the researchers wanted to know two things:

  • What is the relationship between kindness and subjective happiness?
  • Can people become happier by introducing a counting kindness intervention?

To explore the first question, they used the Subjective Happiness Scale. It measures daily happy and unhappy experiences. The questionnaire also consists of motivation, recognition, and behavior-related items.

For the second question, the team asked participants to count the number of kind acts they did every day. They performed this task for one week. The researchers used the same scale pre and post-intervention. They also measured gratitude as it related to participants’ response to receiving kindness.

Their findings were:

  • Happy people scored higher on their motivation to perform, and their recognition and enactment of kind behaviors.
  • Happy people have more happy memories in daily life in terms of both quantity and quality.
  • Subjective happiness was increased simply by counting one’s own acts of kindness for one week.
  • Happy people became more kind and grateful through the counting kindnesses intervention.
    (Otake et al., 2006)

One of the challenges with studying kindness lies in its definition. A second is how to measure it. Lee Rowland (2018) in a review of kindness literature, cites one example that manages to do both. Canter, Youngs, and Yaneva (2017) identified three components of kindness.

Rowland highlights their findings as follows:

  • benign tolerance, a type of everyday courteousness, acceptance and love of one’s fellows;
  • empathetic responsivity, a consideration of the feelings of other particular individuals; and,
  • principled pro-action, broadly altruistic behavior that is proactive and about behaving honorably.

He also explains that the research showed another feature: core kindness. This is the umbrella over the previous three. This overarching sentiment is like empathy, but also involves “active gestures born of warm feelings for others” (Rowland, 2018).

One thing that researchers know is that being kind and being a recipient of kindness is a good thing — for everyone. There’s little debate about that.

Kindness is …

What is kindness, anyway? - kindness.org

Kindness and Positive Psychology

Before the rise of positive psychology, research centered on abnormal behavior. The focus was on what was wrong with people and how to fix them.

Positive psychology researchers concern themselves with what works in peoples’ lives. They want to know how to increase those experiences so that people can thrive and flourish.

The subjects explored in positive psychology are many, and diverse. Lee Rowland (2018) views the interest in kindness as resulting from the combination of three events.

  1. The rise of positive psychology as a legitimate area of scholarship
  2. Evidence that empathy and altruism are innate
  3. Negative news cycles frustrating people so much that they crave some good news

The topic of kindness is in the Bible, Quran, and Torah. The Bible includes many references to kindness. Among them are:

  • A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself (Proverbs 11:17).
  • Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18).
  • But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, [and] faithfulness (Galatians 5:22).

Writer Zia Shah cited two hundred in the Quran. Included are:

  • Indeed, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression. He admonished you that you may take heed (Al Quran 16:91).
  • And as for those who strive in Our path — We will surely guide them in Our ways. And Indeed, Allah is with those who are of service to others (Al Quran 29:70).
  • The reward of goodness is nothing but goodness (Al Quran 55:61).

Rabbi Maurice Lamm (2000) writes,

What is quite clearly the most consistent and all-embracing act of faith is called Chesed, which means kindness and implies the giving of oneself to helping another without regard to compensation.

He explains in Day to Day Judaism: Kindness, that kindness is a daily requirement. He also cites a passage from the Talmud clarifying the difference between charity and kindness.

“The Rabbis taught: In three ways is kindness greater than charity. Charity is done with money; kindness can be either with one’s person or one’s money. Charity is for the poor; kindness can be done for either the poor or the rich. Charity is for the living; kindness can be done for the living or the dead (Sukkah 49b).”

If we were to examine other religious texts, we’d likely find more references to kindness. Based on its prevalence in those texts, it’s evident that our fascination with it is thousands of years old. Until recently we didn’t understand how being kind helps us mentally and physically.

Download 3 Free Positive Relationships Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will equip you or your clients to build healthy, life-enriching relationships.

The Research on Kindness and Mental Health

There’s a plethora of research surrounding this topic. You could spend weeks, maybe months, combing through scientific journals. To save you time here’s some great information that summaries much of what researchers know.

The science of kindness - randomactsofkindness

Rowland and Curry (2019) also found,

  • After seven days of performing kind acts, happiness increases, and
  • There’s a positive relationship between the number of kind acts and the level of happiness someone experiences.

Doing kind acts and showing gratitude might be difficult for some, but the more you do it, the easier it is. You’ll also be happier and less stressed by the end of your day.

12 Interesting Facts and Statistics

In Sarah Tashjiian’s (2018) article, Does it pay to be kind? she identifies several kindness benefits all supported by scientific inquiry. Here are some of those benefits:

  • Prosocial behaviors increase happiness and self-esteem
  • Being kind improves how others see and accept you
  • Kindness leads to reductions in risks for disease
  • Neural networks related to reward fire when we’re kind, and when we see others experience kindness

No two people express or behave with kindness the same way or to the same degree. In Tashjiian’s article (2018) she also identified that,

  • People with less money show more generosity, charitability, and helpfulness,
  • Children who are more social exhibit more prosocial behavior, and
  • Kindness is positively related to better self-regulation and less emotional reactivity

Researchers from KindLab at Kindness.org conducted a meta-analysis of 27 experimental studies. According to them, research supports that kindness has a significant effect on wellbeing.

KindLab also reported several other findings including,

  • Kindness ranked above physical attractiveness in a potential mate. They received responses from 10,047 people from 33 countries,
  • If a doctor expressed empathy and kindness, surveyed patients’ colds shortened by 1 day,
  • Kindness can lower the effects of stress,
  • Being kind to others boosts psychological flourishing, and
  • Kindness is an effective way to reduce state-level social anxiety.

The Key Characteristics and Attributes of a Kind Person

Finding a scientifically-validated list of what it takes to be a kind person doesn’t exist. What we can do is glean this information from a variety of pieces of research. Following is a brief list of traits that surfaced again, and again.

kindness traits

  • Empathy
  • Good listening skills
  • Social
  • Generous
  • Charitable
  • Helpful
  • Courteous
  • Engage in perspective-taking
  • Caring/nurturing

The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education decided to ask a few expert citizen scientists. Here are their responses.

Kindness through their eyes

Become a citizen scientist for a few minutes and explore the following questions.

  1. What would you add to this list?
  2. What criteria would you use to include your suggestion(s)?
  3. What definitions would you use?
  4. How would cultural differences or similarities help you determine what to include?

Leave a comment below and let us know.

5 Examples of Kindness in Action

Acts of kindness worldwide are plentiful. Whether it’s a person giving up their seat on a crowded commuter train, or pulling someone from a burning car, they happen every day.

Our brains tend to focus on the negative, scanning the environment for threats. We must be proactive in our pursuit of finding and recognizing kind acts. They won’t always be extraordinary, but they always will be necessary for our survival.

In no particular order, here are five fabulous examples of kindness in action.

Comedian Ricky Smith: random acts of kindness - FOX 11 Los Angeles

R.A.K.E. (Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere ), created by Ricky Smith in Cleveland, OH started because he had an insatiable desire to give back to others. As he performed acts, big and small, he garnered the attention of people throughout his hometown. See Ricky in action.

Speaking to a massive audience - Think Kindness

Think Kindness inspires and challenges young people to act kindly. The organization, led by Brian Williams, guides school communities to spread kindness in 15 days through random acts. Watch Brian motivate a group of middle school students at Kent State University.

Kindness Boomerang "one day" - LifeVestInside

Kindness Boomerang, viewed more than 30 million times, shares a simple message: kindness is contagious. It’s the brainchild of Life Vest Inside founder, Orly Wahba. She’s on a mission to “empower and unite the world with kindness.”

Get a box of tissues. 10 incredible acts of kindness caught on camera is a real-life tear-jerker.

10 Incredible acts of kindness caught on camera - Top Trending

Still have that box of tissues? Here are a few more Incredible acts of kindness caught on camera.

Incredible acts of kindness caught on camera - BE AMAZED

This section could be quite long. You’re invited to add to this list in the comments below.

A Look at Kindness as a Character Strength

Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman (2004) investigated character strengths and virtues found worldwide. They recognized that settings shape a person’s traits and, thus can change. Peterson and Seligman also understood that individual traits are stable and general (p. 10).

Their exploration culminated in the identification of 24 universal character strengths. Each strength is further classified according to a theme of which there are six.

Classification of Character Strengths
Image from VIA Institute on Character

The inclusion of a character strength involved meeting most of the following ten criteria:

  1. Fulfilling – The act is intrinsically motivating and rewarding.
  2. Morally valued – Regardless of whether it produces a desirable outcome/reward.
  3. Doesn’t diminish others – The creative act of one, benefits others.
  4. Nonfelicitous opposite – This is a linguistic measure. The researchers were attempting to reduce confusion caused by synonyms or antonyms.
  5. Traitlike – The strength is general and stable across situations and time.
  6. Distinctiveness – The trait differs from the other traits in a meaningful way.
  7. Paragons – Stories, legends, and myths include the desired trait
  8. Prodigies – Like in other domains, it’s possible that a person could show an unusual talent for a particular strength.
  9. Selective absence – This leaves room for the possibility that someone doesn’t have a particular strength at all. For example, a person might score zero for humor.
  10. Institutions and rituals – These are societal supports. Examples include sports teams, after-school programs, religious institutions, etc.

Kindness is a character strength within the Humanity theme. This theme encompasses tending to and befriending others. Their definition of kindness is:
Doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them.

Synonyms include generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, and “niceness” (Peterson & Seligman, 2004, p. 29).

For a detailed explanation of this and other virtues, read their book, Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. (Amazon)

Is Kindness a Weakness?

Research doesn’t support the perspective that to be kind is to be weak. It does tell us that it makes us stronger mentally and physically.

If you’re on the fence about this or surrounded by naysayers, watch Robin Sharma’s video. He’s a leadership expert with a great explanation for why kindness isn’t a weakness.

Why kindness is not a weakness - Robin Sharma

Why is Kindness an Important Personality and Character Trait?

If you want a happier world, start with kindness. It’s contagious, slows aging, is good for your heart, and improves relationships.

Dr. David Hamilton (2017) explains this in The five side effects of kindness. He says we’re not selfish people, we evolved to help each other. This led to strong bonds and increased survival rates.

Popular TV shows or movies highlight the importance of strong group bonds. Vikings, Sons of Anarchy, and Avengers are examples of this. There are many more examples real and imagined.

Kindness is not only an important trait, but it’s also critical for our success as a species.

Hamilton explains how oxytocin, produced when we express kindness and compassion, helps us.

Why kindness is good for you - Dr. David Hamilton

The Value of Showing Kindness to Others

By now, you’re filled with ideas about how to do random acts of kindness. You’re motivated to get started but wait — there’s more.

Do you want to look and feel younger?

Mark Kelly shares how doing one act of kindness every day does exactly that.

How one act of kindness a day can change your life - Mark Kelly

The Scottish Government values kindness so much that it included it in its National Performance Framework (Wallace, 2018). The new framework outlines the purpose of the government. It also identifies outcomes all public institutions need to achieve. Their values statement is:

“We are a society which treats all our people with kindness, dignity and compassion respects the rule of law and acts in an open and transparent way.”

The Bhutanese government measures their success according to Gross National Happiness (GNH.) The 4 Pillars of GNH guide their endeavors.

  1. Sustainable & Equitable Socio-economic development
  2. Good Governance
  3. Preservation & Promotion of Culture
  4. Environmental Conservation

The 9 Domains of GNH allow for the more specific measurement of The 4 Pillars.

  1. Living standards
  2. Education
  3. Health
  4. Environment
  5. Community vitality
  6. Time-use
  7. Psychological wellbeing
  8. Good governance
  9. Cultural resilience and promotion

The value of kindness isn’t stated, but it’s clear that it underlies many of the domains. The Bhutanese have been an example for many other countries.

Using Kindness in Leadership

Gay Haskins and Alison Gill (2018) conducted a survey of 200 leaders from public and private institutions.

These leaders came from around the world. Haskins and Gill wanted to understand how leaders perceived their role after the 2008 global economic crisis. After that crisis and other issues, trust in public and private organizations eroded in the UK and US. The researchers also wanted to know what role, if any, kindness has in business operations.

Study participants indicated that there needed to be a move toward a relational management style. The focus of leadership needed to shift from ‘what’ to including ‘how’ and ‘why.’

The role of kindness involved several actions (Haskins & Gill, 2018):

  • fostering a sense of inclusion
  • accommodating personal issues
  • treating others respectfully
  • generosity in giving and receiving
  • caring and being responsive
  • communicating with a personal touch
  • being transparent
  • explaining information logically
  • giving time and active listening
  • valuing differing perspectives
  • giving honest and constructive feedback
  • counseling and mentoring
  • embracing diversity and tolerance

Many of the leaders viewed kindness as a core value. When it is seen as a core value and is communicated consistently, employees are happier and more productive. Financial performance also increases.

It’s important that boards and the executives running an organization agree on values. Some leaders believed kindness is difficult to sell in the boardroom or with shareholders.

Haskins and Gill identified four key attributes of kind leaders:

  • empathy
  • altruism
  • respect
  • fairness

These are the same traits board members need to show. According to their study, “kindness potentially holds the key to building trust in commercial business; this leap of faith starts with the board.”

Being a “tough as nails” leader has negative consequences. Emma Seppala writing for the Harvard Business Review (2014) cited two.

  • increased employee stress which contributes to high health care and more turnover
  • lack of bonding leads to increased psychological distress

Being kind had the opposite effect. It also increased trust and a sense of belonging. Self-sacrificing leaders gain loyal and committed employees. These employees are friendlier and more helpful to fellow teammates.

The bottom line? Be kind. The benefits mentioned in this article thus far also apply in the office.

Kindness vs Compassion

Why, from an evolutionary perspective, would humans be compassionate? UC Berkeley researcher Dacher Keltner explains how compassion developed in people.

Dacher Keltner on the Evolutionary Roots of Compassion

Compassion is action-oriented. We feel for another person’s plight and take action to help. This differs from empathy in which we feel the pain of another person’s plight. In this latter case, we don’t take action to reduce the pain. In fact, we can experience empathy even while viewing a fictional show or movie.

Empathy is exhausting. It can lead to feelings of burnout. Compassion is like a warm hug. It also can be invigorating. They aren’t necessarily connected. Researcher Paul Bloom (2017) offers a few examples.

  • You can worry about a child who’s afraid, pick the child up to offer comfort (compassion), but not feel the child’s fear (empathy.)
  • You can be concerned about starving people and try to support them (compassion) without experiencing starvation (empathy.)

In the brain, empathy and compassion activate in different locations. Feelings of distress are characteristic of empathy. Feelings of concern and a desire to ease suffering are characteristic of compassion. Training in compassion versus empathy leads to more prosocial behaviors (Bloom, 2017).

Are kindness and compassion the same thing? Based on the previous definitions and examples one could argue that they are.

If you make a point to smile at people (kind act) could that be an act of compassion? You might not know how that simple action reduced another person’s suffering, but that doesn’t make it any less compassionate.

Can we be kind but not compassionate? Again, according to our definition of kindness, compassion (an action) is kindness.

Recall the definition provided by Pam (2013) at the start of this article:

“It is a benevolent and helpful action intentionally directed towards another person, it is motivated by the desire to help another and not to gain explicit reward or to avoid explicit punishment.”

10 Activities and Worksheets to Promote Kindness (Incl. PDF)

If you’d like to accept a kindness challenge, head over to Kindness.org. It’s a nonprofit whose team members believe “kindness is the catalyst in solving the world’s biggest challenges.” Through their KindLab they test this hypothesis every day. You also could become a Citizen Scientist and help add to their research.

It’s hard to be a bully and be kind at the same time. The Great Kindness Challenge is a wonderful resource for schools. The materials are appropriate for pre-K – 12th grades.

Visit Doing Good Together for free printable tools all about kindness. Be sure to check out their Summer of Kindness Bucket list.

They also have a 30 Days of Kindness Challenge for families.

7 Simple Kind Acts

  1. Start a gratitude corner in your office or classroom. Teammates or students can post messages about the kind things someone did for them in the past week. At the end of the week talk about the messages as a group.
  2. Start a gratitude journal or use an app like Bliss. Research links gratitude to wellbeing and better health. A recent study showed that concern for others changes after a three-week journaling intervention (Karns, Moore, & Mayr, 2017).
  3. Buy coffee or tea for the person behind you in line. You could put a big smile on someone’s face by paying for their morning brew.
  4. Pay for someone’s entry into a state or national park. The average US national park entry fee ranges from $25-$30/vehicle. Parks around the world have similar costs.
  5. Pick up trash around your community. In North America, you can get involved through the Adopt-a-Highway program. If you do, then you’ll clean up a section of highway for a specified period of time.
  6. Visit elderly people in a nursing home. Create the Good has great suggestions in their friendly visitor kit for how to make the most of your visit.
  7. Create a free library. Little Free Library has models or you could build one of your own. These are great for smaller communities, and for communities whose libraries lack resources.

Little Free Library

Want to build your own Tardis library? If you have intermediate-level building skills, Steve Ramsey’s How to build a Tardis video can help you.

How to build a tardis! limited tools needed. free plans

What’s your favorite kindness activity? Tell us all about it in the comments. By doing this one small act you’ll inspire at least one other person to copy you.

What is Kindness Week?

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation used to host an annual Kindness Week. According to a post on their site, Random Acts of Kindness Day started appearing on calendars in February. Because it happened around the same time as RAKWeek, the Foundation decided to stop officially organizing a week-long event.

Kindness Week was an opportunity to highlight, share, and celebrate kind acts worldwide. Spreading a message of kindness is contagious, and it starts with one person. Pictures and stories provide a counterbalance to the negative media that bombards us.

Now you can celebrate RAKDay every February with millions of other people. Don’t feel like you’re limited to one day, though. With the resources on the Foundation’s site, you can celebrate kindness all year long.

The World Kindness Movement (WKM) began in Tokyo, Japan November 13th, 1997. It’s a global group offering a platform for like-minded organizations to share and collaborate. The mission of WKM is:

“to inspire individuals towards greater kindness by connecting nations to create a kinder world.”

To date, there are 37 member nations. If you’re interested in getting involved, visit their Find a project page. World Kindness Day is November 13, 2019. The purpose is to highlight, share, and celebrate acts of kindness.

9 TED Talks and YouTube Videos

The secret kindness agents - Ferial Pearson

Omaha, NE isn’t just home to The Oracle, Warren Buffet. It’s also the home base for The Secret Kindness Agents. Ferial Pearson, an educator, developed the program in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. Listen to how she convinced a group of low-income students to accept their new mission.

Think kindness - Brian Williams

Brian Williams shares how Think Kindness got its start. He challenges each of us to ask ourselves, “What ripples will I start through my actions?” and “What impact do I want to have in this world?” He wanted to inspire massive amounts of people. What do you want to do?

The hidden power of kindness - Jennifer Willis-Rivera

Jennifer Willis-Rivera, Development Officer at Random Acts, shares three lessons about kindness. Bonus: She shares several health benefits, too.

  • You don’t have to be good to be kind,
  • Kindness is like a vaccine, and
  • Kindness is selfish, but in a good way.
What if kindness was cool? - Jeremy Goldberg

Why is apathy acceptable? Why is it okay to watch someone suffer alone when surrounded by many? Scientist Jeremy Goldberg wondered these things so he started Long Distance Love Bombs. He brings up an interesting point to ponder: Why are we living in a world where kindness is an idea worth spreading?

The power of kindness - Orly Wahba

Life Vest Inside founder Orly Wahba shares the passion that started her organization. She takes you from dream to reality through dreaming, believing, and trusting. In who? Yourself.

Isadora Dantas fulfilled a lifelong dream and moved from Brazil to NYC. After a few months, she was lonely and unhappy. People in Brazil smiled, engaged in chats, and didn’t have the same personal space rules. Dantas decided to try a few kindness interventions. She did them for a full year. What did she learn? If she took the first step, then that would change everything for her. Here are her three steps to growing kindness:

  • Make a mental decision to be kind every day,
  • Accept being vulnerable, and
  • Just do it – Find the opportunities to be kind.
Creating happiness through kindness - Isadora Dantas
Kindness is the cure - a call for kindness - Cindy Grimes

Do you believe kindness is a cure? Cindy Grimes does. She also believes that it can take us from a place of fear to love and openness. Here are two suggestions she offers.

  • Give up the news, and
  • Watch with mindfulness if you can’t give it up.
The better angels of our nature - RSA

Steven Pinker explains in The better angels of our nature, that violence is, and has been, in decline. In fact, this is probably the most peaceful time humans have experienced. This talk offers a different perspective on world events.

How you treat people is who you are! - Fearless Soul

Fearless Soul challenges us to start with ourselves by lifting others up. What difference can you make to one human life? Remember, kindness is contagious.

Kindness is a hot topic these days. A google search for “how many books are there about kindness” returns more than 87 million. Searching Amazon for books about kindness yields pages of results.

To make things easier, and to spread a little more kindness, here’s a short list of books to get you started.

1. Secret kindness agents – Ferial Pearson

Secret kindness agentsWhat would happen if you did one small act of compassion for someone?

Would it, could it, change a life?

This is the central question that jump-started Secret Kindness Agents.

Find the book on Amazon.

2. Why kindness is good for you – David R. Hamilton

Why Kindness Is Good For YouScience and real-world examples unite to explain how we’re wired to be compassionate.

Learn the real secret to longevity.

Find the book on Amazon.



3. The healing power of doing good – Peggy Payne and Allen Luks

The Healing Power of Doing GoodWhen we care for others, we care for ourselves.

Volunteerism, the most compassionate act, helps the receiver and the giver live a healthier, happier life.

This book will help you see how you can create space in your life to volunteer, and why you should.

Find the book on Amazon.


4. Character Strengths Interventions: A field guide for practitioners – Ryan M. Niemiec

Character Strengths InterventionsTheory meets practical application for each of the 24 VIA character strengths in this guide.

You’ll learn how to flex your strengths more and how to dial them back when needed.

Find the book on Amazon.


5. Character Strengths and Virtues – Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman

Character Strengths and VirtuesThis primer on character and the universal strengths identified by the authors provides the reader with the theory behind the selection of the 24 VIA character strengths.

Find the book on Amazon.



6. The Kindness Cure: How the science of compassion can heal your heart and your world – Tara Cousineau

The Kindness CureHow do we reduce fear and indifference in the world?

Cousineau argues that acts of kindness can do exactly that.

Through an exploration of psychology and neuroscience, you’ll discover how.

Find the book on Amazon.

7. The stress of life – Hans Selye

The stress of lifeConsider a primer for anyone interested in how stress affects the body, Selye explains the discovery of stress and how to combat it.

Find the book on Amazon.




8. Give and Take: Why helping others drives our success – Adam Grant

Give and TakeAre you a giver, taker, or matcher?

Through his research Grant explains that givers tend to achieve extraordinary success.

Their achievements span a wide range of industries.

Find the book on Amazon.


9. Leading with Kindness: How good people consistently get superior results – William F. Baker and Michael O’Malley, Ph.D.

Leading with KindnessWhat are the attributes of kind leaders?

How can leaders leverage kindness to motivate employees and increase productivity?

The authors share answers to these and other questions about kindness.

They also show how leaders can define kindness within the context of a business.

Find the book on Amazon.

10. Kindness in Leadership – Gay Haskins, Michael Thomas, et al.

Kindness in LeadershipThe authors share the results of their interviews with 200 leaders in public and private sectors.

They delve into the importance of kindness in different organizations.

Included is an exploration of differences and similarities world-wide across gender, age, and economic groups.

Find the book on Amazon.

Please share your recommendations in the comments. Feel free to include children’s books, too. Those often provide the best lessons.

Positive News Sources

In a world with a 24/7 news cycle, we get inundated with and overwhelmed by negative news. Turn on the TV, read a post or newspaper. What are the headlines? Murder, mayhem, and destruction greet us page after page and click after click.

But, there are news organizations bucking this trend. Here are a few you should investigate.

Yes Magazine
Through rigorous reporting on the positive ways communities are responding to social problems and insightful commentary that sparks constructive discourse, YES! Media inspires people to build a more just, sustainable, and compassionate world.

Positive News
When much of the media is full of doom and gloom, Positive News is the first media organization in the world that is dedicated to quality, independent reporting about what’s going right.

Good News Network
From its beginnings, the website has been a clearinghouse for the gathering and dissemination of positive news stories from around the globe, confirming what people already know — that good news itself is not in short supply; the broadcasting of it is.

The Guardian
Our Half Full series focuses on constructive stories, innovations, and people trying to make a difference.

World’s Largest Positive Psychology Resource

The Positive Psychology Toolkit© is a groundbreaking practitioner resource containing over 500 science-based exercises, activities, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments created by experts using the latest positive psychology research.

Updated monthly. 100% Science-based.

“The best positive psychology resource out there!”
Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, Flourishing Center CEO


The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has a great collection of quotes if you’d like to read more. Here are a few from some names you’ll recognize, but also some from several RAKtivists.

What’s a RAKtivist? These people are ambassadors of kindness. They share knowledge and lead by example. The Foundation currently has about 26K between the ages of 14-89 from 87 countries.

Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.

Bob Kerrey

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

Mark Twain

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

Dalai Lama

Kindness is having a generous heart and having a selfless personality.


Being kind is giving even when it seems like you have nothing to give.


Kind hearts are the gardens. Kind thoughts are the roots. Kind words are the blossoms. Kind deeds are the fruits.

Kirpal Singh

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.

Jane Goodall

We rise by lifting others.

Robert Ingersoll

Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.

Kahlil Gibran

Kindness has a beautiful way of reaching down into a weary heart and making it shine like the rising sun.


A Take-Home Message

All the research in the world about kindness doesn’t matter until we take it to heart and commit to action.

Approach doing acts of kindness the Kaizen way — one small act at a time. Doing this often yields fabulous results. You can even start with yourself.

How much safer and happier would people be if they treated themselves with kindness? We might eradicate bullying behavior altogether.

Start your ripple today.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Relationships Exercises for free.

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What our readers think

  1. Alex Killick


    This is so helpful, I am just framing my research into kindness at work and this has provided many avenues to explore. I am also a ‘Rippler’ and would second Jo’s encouragement to join our BetheRipple movement.

    Yours kindly

  2. Joanna Suvarna

    This is so lovely, thank you so much for putting this together. What an uplifting and wonderful curated resource.

    If anyone reading would like to get more involved with bringing kindness into workplaces and the world, please take a look at #BeTheRipple:

    Twitter: @BeTheRipple2020

    We would love you to join our community ❤️

  3. Dr Leah Adams

    This article itself, is an act of kindness. The comprehensive nature of it, and the amount of work that it reflects, show a true devotion to your cause. By delving into this topic, and promoting it’s benefits, I’m sure that you are, indeed, helping to foster a kinder world. I stumbled across it while working on a scholarly article about the therapist’s balance between “kindness” and “therapeutic boundaries”.

  4. Prasanna Veeramani

    Kori – Simply Brilliant!

  5. Taylor

    Kori D. Miller,
    Thank you for writing such a thought provoking, research backed, heart warming article. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word of this. My teacher originally added the link of this article in our “to read” section of a “Science of Wellbeing” course I am currently taking, and I’m grateful she did. I can agree with her that this was a beautiful read. I look forward to reading more pieces from you and PositivePsychology.com in the future. Thank you again.

  6. Malissa

    Hello there, You’ve done a fantastic job. I’ll definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends.
    I am confident they’ll be benefited from this web

    • Issa

      That’s so kind of you.


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