In a world with rapid access to news concerning tragedies and acts of hatred world wide, it becomes difficult to stay grounded and connected to human kindness. Our brain is naturally programmed to capture negative information and this negative bias makes us more attuned to remember and react to negative events in our environments. In fact, our brain was built that way to ensure survival and keep us out of harms way. So the question is, how do we deal with this negative bias so that we do not become cynical?

Many cognitive strategies, typical to most conventional psychological treatments, are helpful in coping with this negative bias. However, random acts of kindness are also known to contribute to immediate positive emotions. Dr. Katherine Nelson-Coffey and colleagues (2016) conducted a research project comparing the effects of pro-social behaviors (e.g. picking up litter, buying a coffee for a stranger, holding the door for someone) and self-oriented behaviors (e.g. buying yourself something, having a warm bath) and the overall perception of happiness. The study found that the group who participated in acts of kindness reported higher levels of overall emotional wellbeing. Acts of altruism are also good for our physical health. Dr. David Hamilton, who studies the effects of stress on cardiovascular health, reports that kindness can release oxytocin, a brain chemical known to lower blood pressure and mitigate the overall impact of stress on our bodies.

Why not try it?  Make a list of 10 simple acts of kindness that you would be willing to try to help better the world and the people around you. Also, kindness is contagious - it inspires us all to be better and do better.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give”  ~  Winston Churchill

Christine Belliveau