Loneliness. It is that heart-wrenching, gut-aching, sorrowful feeling that brings about a type of pain and rejection that almost no human can handle. But why do humans have such a negative reaction to this type of pain? Well, humans are social beings — our mind isn’t meant to be alone. Simply put, we can’t survive without companionship, which is often why heartbreak, the death of a loved one or forms of social rejection can be so hard for people to handle. Our brain’s strong negative reaction to loneliness or social isolation is an evolutionary response — one that kept our ancestors alive. Fear of being rejected by a community outweighed the so-called “benefits” of selfish behavior, such as stealing food or water, and not sharing with others in a clan. As humans became better at recognizing selfish or bad intentioned people, they also became better at choosing which members of a clan to work or share with. This often led to selfish individuals being shunned from society, and those shunned individuals often could not survive on their own. As a result, the mind used loneliness, or a fear of being excluded from society, to prompt people to make better choices that benefit everyone — kinder choices.

Kindness is in our true nature. When we need to make a quick decision, we often choose being kind over being selfish; overthinking, is what leads to more selfish behavior. If we were to see someone in trouble, our first thought would be to go and help him/her, but the more we start having thoughts like “what if this person thinks I am weird?” or “what if I make the situation worse?”, the less likely we are to go through with kind actions. The solution to this problem is simple. We just need to practice being kind. By going out of our way to help others, we become more comfortable with approaching tricky situations and our actions become more genuine over time. Eventually, we won’t need to think twice before going to help someone, because our instinct will immediately help us make the kinder decision.

But, if the solution to being a kinder person is so simple, why isn’t the world full of kind people? There are many reasons for this type of behavior; fear of a consequence, not seeing the purpose in helping a stranger etc. Another reason for this behavior can be ego. Ego isn’t a bad thing, in fact, we need our ego in order to survive. As wonderful as being kind is, your ego is what balances you. Everyone needs to be a little bit selfish in order to take care of themselves. Giving away everything you have to someone who is less fortunate than you is just as bad as you hoarding everything and not sharing with anyone. The problem arises when our ego takes over and chooses for us to follow a one track mindset — one that has thoughts such as “ME and ME ONLY”. This is especially prevalent in our extremely competitive society today, where people make decisions based on their own welfare rather than thinking about the greater good. Now that we are in such an ego driven society, being kind is more important than ever. Simple gestures such as opening the door for someone or listening to what others say shows that we respect the people around us. It shows that we care about something more than just ourselves, and if we are going to advance as a society, we need to learn how to treat different people as equals, no matter what they may believe.

Many worldwide issues have to do with the way people view other people — as a threat, to either their well-being or to their success, etc. If we simply put aside our ego, even for a moment, and acted on our true nature, kindness, our relationship as a society would improve leaps and bounds. People wouldn’t discriminate based on characteristics such as race or gender because people would have respect for everyone. And kindness doesn’t just stop with mankind, it extends to the world around us. From being cautious about where we put our trash to protecting endangered species, we can improve life for not only ourselves, but our planet. Seeing the value of everything around us will help us realize the importance that even the smallest things carry, and once we recognize that each living being on earth has a right to life just as much as we do, we will treat them with respect. But this type of global change doesn’t just magically happen. We must all practice being kind to others and ourselves, and learn to respect beings as they are. Once we all take a step out of our one track minds, we will truly experience what it is like to live together in harmony, with ourselves and the world around us.