“The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humor and style and generosity and kindness.” ~Maya Angelou (1928)
As many of you know, I am a believer in the magic of random acts of kindness. And those of you who know me well, know I don’t believe in anything that doesn’t have research to back it up. In the case of random acts of kindness there is lots of research in the field of positive psychology to suggest that when we give by doing something nice for a friend or stranger or help out in our local community that we accrue some significant benefits.
Why do people do good things? Is kindness hard-wired into the brain, or does this tendency arise via experience? Or is goodness some combination of nature and nurture?
Dacher Keltner, director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory, investigates these questions from multiple angles, and often generates results that are both surprising and challenging. He was interviewed in Scientific American about the findings he reports in his new book, Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.
In that interview Keltner suggested that, “A new science of happiness is finding that these [positive] emotions can be readily cultivated in familiar ways, bringing out the good in others and in oneself.”
Keltner provides some “empirical” examples:
Meditating on a compassionate approach to others shifts resting brain activation to the left hemisphere, a region associated with happiness, and boosts immune functions.
Talking about areas of gratitude, in classrooms, at the dinner table or in the diary, boosts happiness and social well-being and health.
Experiences of reverence in nature or around morally inspiring others improves people’s sense of connection to others and sense of purpose.
Laughing and playing in the face of trauma gives the person perspective upon life’s inevitable difficulties, and improves resilience and adjustment.
Devoting resources to others, rather than indulging a materialist desire, brings about lasting well being. (In other words, random acts of kindness!)
I hope that you will practice some of these positivity generating activities. How about starting today? Join others in 26 Random Acts of Kindness in memory of the 26 victims in the school shooting in Newtown. I think you’ll be inspired by the stories of paying kindness forward. http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/26-random-acts-of-kindness
Share with us your random acts of kindness. We love to hear about your experience and you might inspire another of my followers to pay it forward too! After all, sharing is good for you…
P.S. Since everything is better shared, please share this blog link with your friends!
Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Board Certified Coach and an Advanced Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US. Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry. She coaches individuals on achieving their reflected best selves. A MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment and Leadership to social work students at the University of Southern California.