Posted on October 5, 2015 by Enrique Mata
Working in the health promotion and healthcare arenas, I’ve witnessed people perform some wonderful life changing, selfless acts. Nothing inspires me more than to see folks connecting with each other to build a better community. Altruism is defined as unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others, which is an important element for emotional well-being and quality of life. In fact, research shows that acts of kindness, generosity and compassion, can boost happiness in both the recipient and the person doing the good deed.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
- Dr. Leo Buscaglia
It turns out acts of random kindness can change more than the lives of the giver and the recipient. Research done by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that altruism can spread. They explain that with altruistic acts “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”
Practicing acts of random kindness can foster happiness, but be careful not to extend beyond limits. Being sacrificial can reduce well-being. For example care givers for friends and family may go beyond their limits of time, money or personal energy, leading to negative health outcomes. In cases where an act of random kindness requires resources beyond what can be offered by one person, be honest and seek help. You may find that by working together and sharing the burden a better outcome can result for all.
The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkley offers some ways to nurture our own altruistic instincts and help motivate altruism in others such as:
• Maintaining connections with people • Being grateful for gifts received from others • Leading by example - People who consistently display altruism encourage others to follow suit • Putting people in a good mood - Feeling happy makes people more generous • Encouraging collaboration and emphasizing shared goals • Getting time on your side – Slow down, don’t overschedule, and make time to be mindfully aware of your surroundings.
As the holiday season begins, remember that compassion and kindness are connected to overall happiness and well-being. Research shows that positive outcomes for those who practice acts of random kindness can be even greater than for the individuals they help. Kindness does not need to cost anything more than a little extra time. Some simple acts include; paying someone a compliment, making someone smile, calling your parents or playing with your kids, helping someone who is struggling or just letting folks know you care.
Acts of random kindness can start a wave leading to increased happiness and emotional well-being among family, friends and community. As Leo Buscaglia said, “Don’t spend your precious time asking “Why isn’t the world a better place?” It will only be time wasted. The question to ask is ‘How can I make it better?’ To that there is an answer.” I look forward to collaborating with you to make our community a better place.
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