If you always go out of your way to help others, you’ve probably wondered if being that nice is really worth it. Let’s be honest, being a good person doesn’t always work out in your favor. Especially in this day and age when narcissism thrives and selfish people seem to have it better than those who genuinely care about their fellow humans.
Does this mean that in order to succeed you need to stop caring altogether and turn into an incarnation of pure evil? Of course not! Not only is being kind towards others a morally right thing to do, but research also shows that kindness actually pays off in more ways than one.
Challenges faced by nice people
Let’s first take a closer look at why being nice seems to bet getting harder and harder these days. Research from the University of Michigan shows that today’s college students in the US are 40% less empathetic and 58% more narcissistic compared to students 30 years ago.
We are living in an increasingly digitalized world where it’s now easier than ever to spew hate at people we don’t know without any consequences. As educator and author, Dr. Michele Borba explains, “It’s very hard to be empathetic and feel for another human being if you can’t read another person’s emotions.”
Technology is just one part of the equation. Other reasons why empathy in industrialized societies seems to be on the decline include rising income inequality, job insecurity, the culture of competitiveness, and instant gratification
It might seem like kindness in no longer the way to go and that being cruel and selfish is the only way to survive in the modern world. But is it really so?
Why kindness pays off after all
As much as we like to tout our independence, the truth is that we are social animals who are biologically programmed to rely on each other’s kindness. According to Matthew Lieberman, Professor and Social Cognitive Neuroscience at UCLA, “evolution has placed a bet that the best thing for our brain to do in any spare moment is to get ready to see the world socially.”
Besides being a tool for survival, kindness also increases our overall sense of happiness. A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology found that people who perform small acts of kindness every day experience an increase in happiness and satisfaction.
Kindness is also associated with better health and longevity. According to research from Sheldon Cohen at Carnegie Mellon University, friendly people have stronger immune systems and are less likely to suffer from stress-related diseases.
Other health benefits of being nice include lower blood pressure and reduced inflammation in the body, less stress and anxiety, and better sleep quality.
Finally, doing something nice for another person triggers a domino effect. This is because people on the receiving end of kindness can’t help but feel compelled to “pay it forward”. In other words, if we want to create a kinder and more just society for future generations, we need to start treating small acts of kindness as major opportunities for change.