Why Kindness Is So Important to Our Happiness

New research shows most people to be happier when they are generous, thoughtful and kind to others.

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Posted in , Dec 6, 2021

Kindness leads to happiness

A recent experiment conducted at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada has an “Aha!” moment for anyone who wants to cultivate habits that increase everyday happiness and well-being.

Researchers walked around campus handing out $5 or $20 bills, asking participants to spend the money by the end of the day. The participants weren’t told what the purpose of the research was, only that they were part of a study. Half the participants were told to spend the money on themselves, the other half were tasked with spending it to benefit someone else.

At the end of the day, those who had spent the money on others reported a greater sense of happiness and well-being than those who had spent it on themselves.

Aha! Kindness is connected to happiness.

This likely won’t surprise many readers who live by the Golden Rule and generally strive to anchor our happiness in ways we can contribute to the lives of others. But the UBC study is part of a broader idea that can help us deepen our commitment to these values during the busy holiday season and beyond.

Two students at the university have started a Random Acts of Kindness Club to reinforce that kindness is a daily habit. “You can never have enough kindness and that's what we're here to do, just spread that positivity around,” said Nadia Mansour, one of the founders of the club. 

So far, the group has created public displays of inspirational and practical messages encouraging the community to care for their emotional health. Simple acts of kindness, members say, are benefitting themselves as well as making a difference in the broader community.

Elizabeth Dunn, the professor of psychology who led the research study, added that regularly practicing kindness to others can help us with another kindness habit, one that is often more challenging—kindness to ourselves. She said, “The form of kindness that is perhaps most beneficial for ourselves is really all about self-compassion ... that same sort of gentle compassion that we would extend to a treasured friend or maybe a younger person in our life that we care about.”

What is the relationship between kindness and happiness in your life?

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