Being a nice person is not the same as being kind
There’s a difference between nice and being kind—even our bodies recognize the distinction. Kindness not only pours a lot of good into the world, but it’s also good for one’s own health. It doesn’t take much to harness the power of kindness, and it can be as simple as wishing someone a good day over text.
Being nice versus being kind. When was the last time you were nice? You might recall saluting a veteran for their service or greeting a stranger. Being nice involves being polite and pleasing to others.
“If you’re people pleasing, you’re placing an expectation on the person you’re being nice to so that they respond to you in a certain way,” Manly said.
Niceness can be used as a social strategy to get into someone’s good graces, she said. Think about the last time you complimented someone’s outfit but didn’t actually mean it.
Being kind is less self-serving, said Dr. Ash Nadkarni, an associate psychiatrist and director of wellness at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Kindness involves being generous without expecting to get anything in return. The other component is the purpose behind the action. A kind person is acting out of compassion and genuine concern for another.
The difference is intentionality, said Dr. Catherine Franssen, noting that a kind person tries to really understand what someone else is going through.
Practicing kindness rather than niceness allows people to foster deeper genuine connections with others. The more you do it, the easier it will be to relate to others and build more meaningful relationships in all aspects of life.
How kindness affects your body. When people act kindly, the brain releases a hormone called oxytocin. Popularly known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin is used to promote social connection with others. It suppresses the fear sensation and has a powerful impact on the socioemotional functions of the brain.
Oxytocin has wide-ranging functions and is impactful to our health. Not only does it enhance social connection, reduce stress and improve cardiovascular health, but it also ensures inflammation goes down. Chronic inflammation is the basis for a lot of different diseases such as diabetes and depression.
Your brain on kindness. The warm feeling you get from performing an act of kindness is your brain releasing a ton of feel-good chemicals. Being kind boosts production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood, including happiness. Kindness also releases dopamine, a brain chemical in charge of reward and pleasure. It’s the reason why doing one act of kindness feels so good that you want to do another.
Kindness can secrete endorphins, chemicals in the body that promote pleasure and act as a natural pain reliever for both physical and emotional pain. Being kind gives the same health benefits, regardless of how big or small the gesture.