THE RESULTS ARE IN!
The key to happiness is kindness.
A recent study published in April of this year has shown that doing acts of random of kindness (or ARKs, if you forgive me quoting from the movie Evan Almighty) has amazing results on personal, subjective feelings of happiness.
And it didn’t seem to matter whether the ARKs were done for complete strangers, acquaintances or loved ones. Doing something for another person made people happier. And the more ARKs they did, the higher the happiness quotient of the study participants.
So why does this work?
As social animals, we are hardwired to want to connect with others. Living in cooperative groups is literally what led to our survival as a species. But so many of us get stuck inside of our own heads. And there, we hear the voices stuck on loop reciting our fears, worry and hurt. It beats us down so much that we are unable to stop wallowing in our own problems long enough to help others solve theirs.
So many of us have jobs that make us feel like we’re just spinning our wheels until the weekend every week, or we are constantly worried about money, or we are forever searching for someone to complete us and sustain our terror of being alone forever. Or we have lives that force us to interface with technology all day long that we rarely have time to truly connect with another human being.
Those kinds of problems can make us feel pretty helpless and lonely.
So what can we do that would ever bring light into this world, when we feel like we live in such darkness? We can’t even imagine. This makes us feel all the more alone in the world.
We literally have to prove to ourselves that we have value.
The answer is to focus on positive action now rather than the possibility of lack in some unseeable future. What we can do now, right now, is climb out of our troubles with empathy, love and earnestness for ourselves, and then reach out our hand to another soul.
Doing something for others and taking action (especially positive action) hijacks the gerbil wheel in our brain and pulls us into our bodies. It creates an energy inside of our cells that stops the endless loop of fear and worry, anger or depression and gently anchors us into the present. This single moment. Action, reaction. Providing support/receiving appreciation. It builds our self-esteem and confidence while reducing stress. It reminds us of our own personal power. By being present and taking the focus off of us and onto others, we suddenly remember what it feels like to have agency, or power over our immediate future. And that becomes a drug of its own. I dare you to start a kindness habit, and not get hooked.
We are built to connect. I’d even dare say, it’s the meaning of life. So connect with another worthy soul today, and feel good about it. Here are some ideas on how to get started!