When Americans think of kindness, they likely think about Mister Rogers.

Fred Rogers, an American television host and ordained Presbyterian minister, said, “Imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”

Rogers understood the power and impact of kindness — being kind may be more important than you think it is.

Humans have a tendency to discount or underestimate the power of what we do for each other, including acts of kindness. Vox said small deeds, like getting someone a hot chocolate or writing a note, can have a bigger impact than we think.

Even though we may have a tendency to not see the importance of small acts of kindness, they can brighten someone’s day and make us happier in the process.

What is kindness?

Kindness generally means to be compassionate and considerate toward another person, animal or thing. Some think there’s a difference between kindness and niceness.

“There can be a lack of sincerity in just being nice; there is often a perception of doing the minimum,” Inspire Kindness said. “Whereas, being kind is doing intentional, voluntary acts of kindness. Not only when it’s easy to be kind, but when it’s hard to be.”

Kindness is often seen as way of living rather than a single act. People who are kind make giving a part of their everyday lives, like Rogers did and encouraged others to do.

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12 ways to show kindness

There are simple ways you can show kindness to others today. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are some ideas.

  1. Buy your friend lunch.
  2. Make cookies for your neighbor.
  3. Help clean a friend’s house.
  4. Write notes for your friends and family.
  5. Send a friend you haven’t talked to in a while a text message expressing your love for them.
  6. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen.
  7. Donate books to your local library or school.
  8. Hold the door open for strangers.
  9. Bring treats into the office to share with your co-workers.
  10. Leave a decent tip for your waiter the next time you eat out.
  11. Instead of gossiping or putting someone down, think about something you appreciate about that person.
  12. Rake a neighbor’s leaves.

Impact of showing kindness

Kindness has a positive impact on the person who gives it and the person who receives it.

It has the ability to improve your mood and decrease stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, kindness can lower your cortisol and decrease your blood pressure. It also contributes to better relationships, which in turn contributes to a person living longer.

Another way that kindness can positively impact you is through the release of serotonin and dopamine in your brain. These neurotransmitters, per the Mayo Clinic, can increase positive feelings and well-being. They’re released when you’re being kind.

As the old saying goes, kindness is also contagious.

If you’re kind to a person, they become more likely to be kind to someone else too. The Mental Health Foundation said acts of kindness “may also encourage others to repeat the good deeds they’ve experienced themselves — contributing to a more positive community.”

Utah State University professors said individuals who report putting more effort into kindness also report higher levels of happiness in their lives. Part of this seems due to the impact kindness has on interpersonal relationships. When a person is kind to those who are in their social circle or who they have close relationships with, those relationships are strengthened and trust is increased. That has a positive impact on both people in the relationship.

Kindness often means more to the person who received it than the person who gave it. Writing for the Deseret News, Jay Evensen discussed research on this phenomenon and said, “Generally, the people receiving these kindnesses thought they were a bigger deal than those performing them.” This “was because recipients tended to focus on the warmth they felt — a warmth that givers often overlook.”

This warmth, Evensen said, inspired people who had received kindness to give more kindness as a result of the feeling they experienced.

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What are random acts of kindness?

Random acts of kindness are small acts of kindness that a person does without arranging to do them in advance.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation gave a list of random acts of kindness that people can do in their everyday lives. The foundation gave suggestions like “celebrate important days with those you love” or “create positive bookmarks and hide them at your local library.”

Even if you find it difficult to cultivate kindness, it’s a skill you can develop over time. In the Deseret News, Gitanjali Poonia said experts have compared developing kindness to developing strength through exercise. Random acts of kindness are like a muscle — the more you do them, the more part of your everyday life they become.