In what ways have you shared kindness with others recently? How have others been kind to you? How has giving and receiving kindness impacted you and your wellness?
There is no question that being the recipient of an act of kindness can have a very positive impact on the way that you think and the way that you feel. Being on the receiving end of an act of kindness can cause a shift in your brain’s neurochemistry due to a spike in ‘oxytocin’, the hormone responsible for creating internal feelings of belonging, warmth, and significance.
Research has also shown that being the ‘giver’ of kindness has a very similar impact on your brain. When considering how you might increase your own sense of well-being and the well-being of others in 2020, it’s worth considering research done by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and colleagues.
Sonya and her team of researchers were interested in measuring the impact that being kind to others can have on well-being and happiness. More specifically, the well-being and happiness of the person providing the act of kindness for others.
In regards to performing acts of kindness for others, does the frequency and intensity of being the giver of kindness have an impact on well-being and happiness? This was the question that Dr. Sonja explored with her colleagues. To take a deeper look at this question, the researchers placed participants of the study into two different categories:
Which group do you think benefitted the most from providing acts of kindness for others? Do you think the sprinkling of kindness throughout the week had a greater impact on well-being and happiness or was it the group that had devoted an entire day to providing acts of kindness to others?
When questioned about which group benefitted the most from performing acts of kindness for others, 80% of people believed that the ‘Sprinklers’ benefitted the most in regards to the impact it would have on their level of well-being and happiness. In other words, the people who performed just one act of kindness a day for others, over a succession of days, experienced a greater sense of well-being and happiness than the "chunkers" of kindness.
However, the research conclusively showed that most people who chunked their acts of kindness had higher levels of well-being and happiness. Setting aside an entire day each week to providing acts of kindness to others far outweighed the sprinkling of kindness over the week.
Why was this?
When analyzed on a much deeper level, the ‘sprinklers’ of kindness, although well-intentioned, felt that over time their effort to be kind was just a ‘drop in the bucket’. Therefore, they felt that the act of kindness that they had bestowed on another person didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. They didn’t feel as though they were making a difference.
Humans by nature want to make a difference and to know their efforts matter. The group of people who had devoted an entire day to providing kindness to others felt that their efforts mattered. One kind act after another made them feel more significant thus deepening their own sense of well-being and happiness.
Dr. Sonja’s research has been replicated many times with the same results. The chunking of kindness has a deeper impact on well-being and happiness than the sprinkling of kindness.
Of course, being kind to others should be a daily part of what we do. If we choose to devote one full day a week to providing acts of kindness for others, it doesn’t mean that we refuse to be kind on other days. The ultimate aim of being kind to others is for them and not the person providing the kindness. However, the byproduct of a kind act can also impact the well-being of the 'giver' of kindness.
Dr. Sonja’s work can help us to see things a bit differently when it comes to kindness. This blog post is meant to jolt your thinking about kindness and what it means in your own life and to get you to reflect on the people who have been kind to you. It's meant to get you to think more deeply about the impact that acts of kindness can have on others and ourselves. Being more present and mindful allows us to stay connected to kindness and to be more willing to acknowledge the powerful role it plays in our daily lives. Thanks for reading.
Neila Steele & Andy Vasily