Kindness is a spontaneous gesture of goodwill toward someone or something. We have all heard of people performing “random acts of kindness.” What does that mean? It means we are taking the time and energy to actually practice kindness. We are looking for opportunities to be kind to others. We are being present in the world around us and asking questions like, “Is there anyone here I can help? Who needs a smile? What could I do for my colleague who is down? How can I be kind to someone? What does she need? What does he need?” Positivity broadens our awareness and opens our mind. When we actively seek positive experience we encourage growth in ourselves and others.
Kindness is important because it creates upward spirals (the opposite of a downward spiral). We feel good about having been kind to someone and want to do more and that makes us feel even better and we continue to build on what we started. When we continue then we begin to shift into a different perception of ourselves. Suddenly, we are someone who “does good in the world”. Performing acts of kindness for others also strengthens social ties and produces prosocial reciprocity. In other words, if Johnny smiles and picks up Suzie’s pen when she drops it, Suzie is more likely to do that for Sally, and Sally is more likely to pass on the kindness as well.
Research shows that altruistic people are happier. When people give, they actually benefit from that act even more than the receiver. Also, performing acts of kindness makes us happier and the more acts of kindness we perform the happier we are.
Here are some ways to boost kindness in your classroom. Please feel free to share more ideas as well!
- Counting Kindness: Ask your students to take some time at the end of the day to remember some of the kind things they did that day. You can have them write them down and put them on the board for others to see. This intervention was used in a study by Barbara Fredrickson (Happiness Study), and it was documented that keeping track of one’s own kind acts for a week increased subjective happiness.
- Celebrating Kindness: Have a shout outboard in your classroom for students to write down kind things that other students have done for themselves or others.
- Recognizing Kindness: Point out kindness when it is described in literature you are reading or in films that your students have seen. Ask your students to come with examples as well.
Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson