Imagine – You’ve had a busy day at work. You’re just about to leave, and your boss suddenly gives you a load of extra work that needs to be done by the end of the week. You were planning on seeing your elderly parents in the evening for your weekly visit. And before that you need to get some shopping for them as they struggle to get out and about.
What do you do?
a) Cancel your visit to your parents and promise to come round when you have less work.
b) Continue to visit your parents. Get their shopping, and even get them a box of their favourite chocolates as a treat.
If you choose option a), how do you think you will be feeling at the end of the evening?
Do you think you will be more or less stressed with depending on the different options. Would one option maker you feel frustrated or angry?
Are you more likely to feel different if you choose option b)?
Add in how you think your parents will be feeling. Does that add to the stress and frustration?
I suspect that option b) will fill you with more warm and fuzzy feelings than taking option a).
You may still have your work to finish, but you have completed one job. And that task has made somebody else feel better, and that makes you feel better doesn’t it.
We are wired for kindness
You see, we all know what the right thing to do is.
In fact, we are genetically wired to be kind. We have evolved by helping each other out to form strong community bonds. And the communities with the strongest bonds survive.
However, self-preservation is also wired in there too, and often there is a battle between the two.
If I was to tell you that choosing option b) has an added positive effect of making you feel happier, would you be more inclined to choose this path more often?
Not only does making acts of kindness make you feel happier, there is also a ripple effect on the others that you have shown kindness to. When someone has kindness shown to them they are more inclined to be kind and so the happiness grows.
The truth is in the science
I’m not saying this because it sounds good. There have been scientific studies to prove it.
The more acts of kindness the better
In a six week study, done by the University of California, a group of volunteers was split into two groups. One group was asked to perform five acts of kindness per week for the six week period. The control group was asked not to be intentionally kind. It was found that the group who performed acts of kindness became happier than the control group. It also showed the most significant gains were made when the acts of kindness were all done on the same day.
Perform acts of kindness to others to achieve the greatest effect
A study of nearly 500 people was divided into four groups. Two of the groups were asked to perform acts of kindness to others and the world. Another group was asked to be kind to themselves, and the fourth didn’t perform any acts of kindness.
Each person was evaluated before and after the study. It was found that the first two groups were happier, i.e the groups being kind to others and the world. The remaining two groups did not show any significant change in happiness.
In another study, done by the University of British Columbia, over 600 people were asked to record how they spent their money over a month. They found those that spent money on others were the happiest.
In another part of the same study, half the volunteers were given an amount of money and asked to spend it on others. The other half were asked to spend it on themselves. Regardless of how much they had been given, those who spent the money on others were happier.
Show others kindness to improve your happiness
If we are feeling down, we are often told to focus on ourselves. Giving ourselves self-care and treats in the hope that it makes us feel better. While this can work for a short time, the above pieces of research show that it is often a better option to help others.
By focussing on others, we stop focussing on our own issues. This gives us a bit of breathing space and as a result, makes us feel happier.
Random acts of kindness has been proven to make the world a better place for everyone. Why not try a challenge to try and improve your well being and community.
Let’s all re-create the effect found by the study done by the University of California. For the next six weeks, pick one day in the week and try to perform 5 acts of kindness and see how you feel at the end of the day. Make sure you put it in your planner, so you don’t forget!
For ideas on some random acts of kindness look here Random Acts of Kindness.