Who needs a casserole?

By Melissa Locker
June 30, 2021

Many a Southern grandma has shared the wisdom about catching more flies with honey than vinegar. The moral of that adage is that kindness works, drawing people in and helping people out. Turns out that kindness isn't just good for those on the receiving end, it's also good for those doling it out.

A group of scientists recently conducted a review of decades of research on kindness involving almost 200,000 people around the world and they made some fascinating discoveries about the scientific merits of kindness. According to an article at U.C. Berkeley's Greater Good website, during their review of all those kindness studies, the researchers found that people who were kind tended to have higher self-esteem, a greater sense of self-efficacy, less depression and anxiety, and improved physical health—particularly in older adults. Overall, the researchers found that people who were kind or regularly engaged in informal acts of kindness tended to have higher well-being.

While there are plenty of bumper stickers telling you to "perform random acts of kindness," those stickers leave out the important part. Based on the scientists' review people who perform those random or informal acts of kindness, like bringing a meal to new parents or making funeral sandwiches for those in need, "tended to be happier than people who performed more formal acts of kindness, like volunteering in a soup kitchen," according to Greater Good. The thinking is that while formal acts like volunteering are good, those informal acts of kindness (read: simple, casual acts of kindness) bring together several psychological needs like the push for autonomy and the need for close relationships to create a power punch of good feelings, making for overall greater happiness.

It's not just adults who can benefit from being kind, though. Greater Good points to a pediatrician who is prescribing kindness to his young patients. The doctor believes that encouraging kids to be kind can help them be happier, make them less likely to have social or behavioral problems, give them a greater sense of purpose, and could even contribute to more success in life. All that just from being kind to each other.

Once again, turns out that Grandma was right: Kindness works and when you're helping others you are helping yourself, too.