Random acts of kindness! Is it the secret to abundant happiness?


Did you know that distillers lose about 2% of whisky from each oak barrel due to evaporation? Though it may seem a small volume, yet when you multiply it by the number of barrels it adds up to a huge revenue loss. To lighten their loss, they refer to this as the ‘Angel’s share.’ They have turned it around from an inevitable loss into a voluntary gift. Can we do the same? Can we contribute a little from our plenty for the well-being of someone, who didn’t manage to get a good deal in life?

 

We have all experienced kindness that made our day or even touched our lives. It’s actions by strangers that took our breath away either by surprise or by sheer awe. We expect compassion from those we know, it’s when a complete stranger provides a lending hand that we feel its manna from heaven, a touch of an angel. I still remember the stranger who helped me to pick up my belongings strewn on a pavement, or just someone paying me a compliment like, “you look gorgeous.” The feeling of goodness that fills your ordinary day with magic when you do something just out of kindness, is indescribable.

 

It was Jayne Howard Feldman who marked 22nd August as a day to celebrate random acts of kindness in. It was a great way to popularise the concept. We all know what it is, but at times we are embarrassed to reach out to someone we don’t know. We wonder, what their reaction would be. It is especially difficult in today’s times when trust is low and simple gestures can be misunderstood.

 

Let’s consider the overwhelming scientific data that supports it. Altruism, which is at the heart of achaten-suisse.com random acts of kindness, has manifold benefits beyond what we intuitively thought. Analysing survey data across 136 countries led a team of leading researchers like Lara B. Aknin, Biswas-Diener,  Helliwell from University of British Columbia and others to conclude that “the reward experienced from helping others may be deeply ingrained in human nature, emerging in diverse cultural and economic contexts.” Even toddlers enjoy giving. It seems that we are hard-wired for altruism.

 

Dr. David Hamilton lists the top 5 side-effects (positive) of Kindness.

 

  1. Kindness Makes us Happier:

The happy feeling resulting from kindness is due to elevated levels of dopamine in the brain, which is referred to as ‘Helper’s High.’

 

  1. Kindness Gives us Healthier Hearts:

Acts of kindness creates emotional warmth which releases oxytocin. This is a cardio-protective hormone which dilates blood vessels thus reducing blood pressure.

 

  1. Kindness Slows Ageing:

Two factors that are responsible for ageing are Free radicals and Inflammation. Oxytocin inhibits both these. Also, compassion is linked to the activity of the vagus nerve which also controls inflammation.

 

  1. Kindness Makes for Better Relationships:

This surely needs no elaboration. Compassion is a great facilitator for bonding. In addition, we inherit the genes for kindness as it evokes cooperation which is critical for survival.

 

  1. Kindness is Contagious:

Studies show that kindness creates a ripple effect that affects relationships that are up to three degrees of separation apart, such as my brother’s friend’s sister!

In a scientific study reported in New England Journal of Medicine a gift of a kidney by an anonymous donor, sparked off a ‘domino effect,’ of donations of 10 kidneys across USA.

 

Michael Norton from Harvard University and others found that 63% people expected to be happier when they spent money on themselves, but guess what? In reality they reported greater happiness when they spent money on others.

 

Analysis of a Gallup study over 2,00,000 respondents across 136 countries showed that in 90% countries ranging from Canada to Uganda, people were happier when they had donated to charity in the preceding month. Significantly this happiness was equivalent to doubling one’s income.

 

Adam Grant, a Wharton Professor, found that generosity is linked to success. Hence those who gave more seemed to go on to earn more. One of the reasons for this could be the good will that is generated through compassion and altruism. Did you know that research shows that kindness and altruism make you attractive to the opposite sex.

 

Let’s spread joy for others and us: 20 ideas to celebrate Angel’s Day:

 

  1. Greet a complete stranger with a smile;
  2. Offer a seat to someone who needs it, even if you don’t have to;
  3. Compliment someone;
  4. Thank a service staff for their services such as a garbage picker, hospital assistant, security personnel, server, porter etc.;
  5. Use tissues to clean up a toilet for those who use it after you;
  6. Offer a tea or coffee on a cold day;
  7. Offer a refreshing drink to a thirsty person at a bus stop;
  8. Don’t bargain to the last penny with street vendors;
  9. Leave a generous tip;
  10. Visit an orphanage with food;
  11. Visit an old people’s home;
  12. Pick up litter, even if not your own;
  13. Buy an ice cream for a street child;
  14. Visit a general hospital ward with get well cards;
  15. Donate books to a child;
  16. Gift a sapling;
  17. Compliment anyone who is used to receiving only complaints;
  18. Offer to share a ride with someone and don’t accept any money;
  19. Volunteer for a cause about which you are passionate;
  20. Offer to help service staff at a shop where you are a customer.

 

It is fascinating that Dr. Patricia Lockwood and others from Oxford University and UCL have actually identified an area in the brain that could be called the generosity center. It seems that those of us who have a developed ‘subgenual anterior cingulate’ actually feel more empathy towards others and are hence more generous. Since this positivity boomerangs back to us, we can also call it the ‘happiness center.’

 

It is said that ‘charity begins at home,’ but there is a corollary that we must not forget.  ‘It must not end there.’ Reaching out with random acts of kindness, to people we don’t know and from whom we expect no personal benefit, adds to it the true flavor of goodness.

 

Unlike other special days that have become marketing milestones and participation only ensures filling the coffers of greeting card companies or chocolate manufacturers…Angel’s Day only helps make the world a better place. Maybe, that’s why no marketing corporation has adopted it…yet! Spread the word, spread the joy, and get some back for yourself.

 

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