What do the following scenarios have in common?
A client is rude but you stay calm.
A friend is feeling low and you send a message to encourage them.
Someone you know is annoying but you want to do the right thing so you choose to spend time with them.
These are situations of kindness.
I want to choose kindness.
I want be my best even when It’s hard.
But sometimes it takes a decision to be kind. I definitely experience this when I’m tired or carrying a heavy workload.
Kindness as a character virtue comes up a lot in positive psychology and happiness literature. Therefore this week I am discussing kindness as a habit in our toolkit for building our best and happiest lives.
It’s easier to choose to be kind when it’s a value we hold and a belief we cling to.
Our values are linked to virtues of character. I believe in kindness, so if i’m behaving unkindly I feel off with a nagging feeling of dissatisfaction hanging around in my thoughts and feelings. It’s harder to enjoy my day.
Kindness is a little different to a generous act because we choose kindness as a value so we can act kindly even when we don’t feel like it. Hence, kindness is a principle important to our life happiness.
Researchers here found living to our values is strongly correlated with happiness . We can be kind even to people we don’t like because we value kindness and want to live congruently with our values for greater happiness.
Kori Miller describes here a definition of kindness taken from Otake et al (2006) as three things:
Kindness is a character strength and character strengths are innate capabilities we have and enhance through awareness and practice. For example, when a person offends us, we are displaying strength and virtue when we don’t retaliate. This doesn’t mean we accept abuse or fail to stand up for ourselves, but we respond assertively and with kindness. When we live with integrity, we succeed in our dreams, goals and actions.
If we are nice to people because we fear disapproval or rejection, this is different to choosing kindness as a habit. I don’t mean this in an insulting way because i’ve done this myself to avoid conflict or in hope the person might like me. The difference lies in why we behave a certain way. For me this meant becoming aware of the difference so I can choose to accept myself and be kind because I believe in living that way.
Last week I talked about the habit of generosity, which is an action we take to give more than others expect. In contrast, when we hold a value of kindness, there are underlying assumptions or beliefs we hold. Here a few i’ve brainstormed so far:
To keep it simple this week, write two names in your journal. Then something you are grateful for in that person. How can you express your gratitude to these two people this week?
 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051380Lee MA, Kawachi I (2019) The keys to happiness: Associations between personal values regarding core life domains and happiness in South Korea. PLOS ONE 14(1): e0209821. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0209821
 Layous K, Nelson SK, Oberle E, Schonert-Reichl KA, Lyubomirsky S (2012) Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being. PLOS ONE 7(12): e51380.
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I’m the creator of Minutes to Happy and your go-to counsellor and wellness coaching companion.
I’m here to guide you in becoming your bravest self (no matter what wellness worries and chronic health challenges are plonked in your path).