Become happier by becoming kinder
This week we continue our posts contributed by guest editors who are also wellbeing professionals. Charlotte Style, author of “Brilliant Positive Psychology” reminds us of the common-sense fact that kindness and happiness go hand-in-hand and suggests ways to become both kinder, and happier!
You can increase your positive emotion and well-being by
increasing your kindness.
The child psychologist Bernard Rimland, director of the Institute for
Child Behavior Research, found that ‘the happiest people are those
who help others’. In his study, people were asked to list ten people
they knew and then to mark each according to how happy they
thought they were. They were then asked to rate the same people
for how selfish they were. Those who were less selfish were also
more likely to be the happiest.
Why not try this experiment for yourself? Rimland’s criterion for
selfish behaviour was ‘a stable tendency to devote one’s time and
resources to one’s own interests and welfare – an unwillingness to
inconvenience one’s self for others’.
Random acts of kindness can be anything: something
as simple as thanking someone, or stopping to allow a car
to pull out in front of you or letting someone onto a train before
you. All random acts of kindness are a real boost to happiness.
Get inventive with your kindness. It is very important to remember how
much variety matters. We love surprise, so keep your kindness fresh.
In a ten-week experiment Sonja Lyubomirsky asked people to practise
random acts of kindness. What was interesting about this research was that
the effect on happiness depended on the variety and not the frequency.
Don’t let this stop you – the more kindness you show the happier you will feel!
In another study in Japan people were asked to count their kindnesses. The
results showed that happy people became more kind and grateful, and all
participants became happier.
B. Rimland (1982). The altruism paradox. Psychological Reports, 51, 521.
Julia K. Boehm and Sonja Lyubomirsky (2008). The Promise of Sustainable Happiness. University of California, Riverside.
K. Otake, S. Shimai, J. Tanaka-Matsumi, K. Otsui and B. Fredrickson, (2006). Happy people become kinder through kindness: A counting kindness intervention. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(3), 361–75.