ALL GOOD QUESTIONS
with even better answers
S E R I O U S L Y
you better watch out
because what we
s e e
isn’t always really what is ever seen. . .
Who Cares - What Matters
ALL GOOD QUESTIONS
with even better answers
S E R I O U S L Y
you better watch out
because what we
s e e
isn’t always really what is ever seen. . .
has already begun
with the same
Q U E S T I O N
HOW DO YOU SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS
or dare to
T H R I V E
enjoy them. . .
Holiday lore has it that you better not pout, you better not cry. But that’s all some of us want to do during the holiday season, when the pressure to be festive is so intense, anyone who doesn’t comply risks being declared a grinch or a Scrooge.
There are plenty of reasons one might dislike the holidays, including strained family relationships, chaotic travel logistics, and the pressure to buy lots of gifts (in this economy). All are valid, mental-health experts say.
“Just like some people like chocolate and others don’t, some people don’t like the things that are associated with the holidays,” says Dr. Jessica Beachkofsky, a psychiatrist based in Fla. “There might be religious overtones they don’t appreciate. They might not like having to go out and about when it’s cold outside. Some people don’t like the noise—or music—of the holidays, and think it’s gaudy or obnoxious.”
If that sounds familiar, it’s important to focus on things that restore you. That includes the year-round stuff—getting enough sleep and exercise, and going easy on the alcohol—as well as activities that really lift you up. This is the time to get that massage, take yourself to the movies, and surround yourself with your favorite things.
If you’re dreading decking the halls, here are five ways to better cope this holiday season.
Maybe you don’t want to have a silent night—and then another and another. There’s so much focus on togetherness during the holidays that those who don’t have a packed calendar might feel isolated and sad. Be open about it. “Don’t be afraid to say to someone, ‘I’m alone. What are your plans? I don’t have any yet,’” says Dr. Sue Varma, a psychiatrist in New York. Many people will respond by extending an invitation; perhaps the only reason they hadn’t done so already was that they didn’t realize you’d be available or interested.
You can also seek out new friends and things to do via platforms like Meetupand Nextdoor, Varma recommends. Another way to surround yourself with people is to volunteer, even if it’s not something you plan on doing the rest of the year. Sign up to visit residents at a local nursing home, bake cookies for first-responders, adopt a kitten, or serve food at a homeless shelter. You’ll get to socialize, and whoever you’re helping will be grateful for the company—a win-win from any angle.
Lots of people struggle with the holidays because of strained family relationships. Setting boundaries is key, Varma says: Tell your mom that you’ll join her for Christmas or New Year’s, but only one-on-one and not with her new husband you don’t get along with. Or, if you don’t have the capacity to deal with your uncle’s political opinions, let your family know you’ll see him in a large group setting (not seated right next to you at dinner).
Have some lines ready to shut down any unwanted conversations. If someone brings up politics and you don’t want to engage, say, “I’m not here to talk about that, but I would like to talk about this delicious food, or the amazing athletes playing football today,” suggests Marhya Kelsch, a psychotherapist in Calif. or just the Classic: “Come on, it’s all about being together and the holidays not about the elections or rights. . . .”
If you’re nervous your guests will bring up a thorny personal issue, address it directly, immediately after arriving. You might say, “Todd and I broke up. It’s been really hard. I would appreciate if we could not talk about it, because I really want to enjoy being here with all of you,” Beachkofsky suggests. “It sounds scary, but if you say it one time, and if those people are even a little reasonable, they won’t bring up the thing you’re asking them not to talk about.”
Every year, Beachkofsky hears from people who are overcome with grief at the idea of spending the holidays without someone who’s no longer here. Her best advice? “You need to feel the feels,” she says. “If you’re sad and everyone else is happy, you are entitled to that feeling.” One way to cope, Beachkofsky says, is to let a supportive friend or family member know you’re struggling. Ask if you can call them any time you need an ear. Then, you’ll know you have someone to turn to who won’t simply tell you to be merry and have another cookie.
It can also be helpful to find ways of honoring the person—or people—you’re mourning. Did you share a special tradition, like always going to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra together or making popcorn garland for the tree? “Find a way to incorporate that into the season,” says Steffani Wooley, a licensed professional counselor based in Texas. Or make a special ornament or photo collage that reminds you of your loved one. “You could even set a place at the table to remember them,” she says.
Travel can be a logistical nightmare during the busiest time of the year. If you don’t want to fork over the cash for a prime-time plane ticket, or if you’re dreading the crowds and long delays, offer a compromise to your long-distance relatives. “Just say, ‘We’re not celebrating Christmas on December 25—we’re going to do it February 1,’” Varma suggests. Then, you can eliminate a major source of stress—and have something to look forward to throughout the holiday season.
Ongoing inflation is still causing prices for almost everything to spike. If exorbitant costs are stressing you out, take the pressure off. First, tell your family members you need to be more low-key about gifts this year, Varma advises. Those with a big family might draw names and only buy for one person or agree that only the kids will get gifts.
And rejigger your perspective on what makes a good gift. As Varma points out, people love to get homemade treats or other inexpensive but thoughtful offerings—“something as simple as homemade pesto,” she says. If you’re gifting someone who you know values time with you, book a yoga class or plan to cook a special meal together. “There are so many ways to be creative that don’t involve a lot of money,” she says.
Cecilia begins the article by admitting: “I don’t know his name, but his messy, shoulder-length hair hides a pair of hauntingly blue eyes. It’s a warm September day in New York, but he’s sitting under a mountain of ragged bits of clothing, towels and blankets. In one hand, he loosely holds a piece of string attached to the neck of a small, mangy-looking dog lying next to him. In the other hand, he clutches a nearly empty bottle of cheap vodka. His bright eyes briefly glance at me without recognition or focus. I don’t know what makes me pause.
My initial thought is to give him money, though I just avoided eye contact with the last 10 people, sputtering that I didn’t have any. And my mom’s words come to mind: “He’ll only spend it on drugs or alcohol.” So I turn to the closest Nathan’s stand and buy him a hot dog, chips and soda.
When I approach him, I feel awkward, my donation insignificant. As if I’m offering a glass of water to a man trapped in a burning building. Is he more of a ketchup or mustard guy? The absurd thought turns my face hot. What comfort will a nutritionally deficient meal with a side of dehydration be to a man who sleeps on cement and spends a life generally invisible to the world?
But when he sees my outstretched hands, he smiles, dropping the bottle and leash to accept the meal with shaky fingers. We don’t exchange any words, but his smile lingers with me.
Cecilia goes on to tell us that it’s only the sixth day of her month-long challenge to find the joy in making someone’s day every day, and up until now, she had felt like a failure. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but rather questioning whether seemingly small gestures were actually accomplishing my goal. Can we really find joy by giving to those around us? Can random acts of kindness actually increase and sustain happiness?
Related: How to Make Others Feel Significant
Turns out they can, but there are exceptions. To find lasting happiness through generosity requires a suppression of our ego, an analysis of our motives and a reflection on how these acts alter our perception of the world.
As children, our parents tell us to make up for misbehaving by doing something nice for someone. As adults, we help friends move into a new house; we bring hot meals to new mothers; we might even donate time or money to local charities a few times a year. After all, it’s naturally uncomfortable to see a friend (or stranger) suffering or in need. Call it karma or mojo, but these acts are generally reciprocated. We receive tax breaks, returned meals and favors, thank-you notes. Tit for tat.
But what about pure, altruistic generosity, without the expectation of receiving something in return? What about being a true Caring Catalyst just to be a mere Caring Catalyst? Some researchers argue this type of generosity doesn’t exist. But Cecilia set out to see whether she could learn to give without the promise of getting. She made lists of various kind acts and placed reminders on her bathroom mirror, her work computer, her car dashboard: Make someone’s day today!
Cecilia’s first act of kindness was buying coffee for the woman behind her in the drive-thru lane at Starbucks. In fact, her first few acts were buying something for someone—lunch for an old friend, a copy of her favorite book to a stranger—but they didn’t make her feel much of anything. The recipients were grateful, but she wondered if she was actually making their day, and was that really boosting her happiness?
At the end of each day, she reflected how being kind made her feel. She dug for tangible proof of her growth. Some days felt more significant: buying cough syrup for the two coughing boys in pajamas at the pharmacy, for example. Their father, who had dark circles under his eyes, rubbed the bridge of his nose as his credit card was declined a second time. She said couldn’t tell whether he was more embarrassed or grateful, but she’d like to think he slept a little easier that night, and left the pharmacy feeling pretty good.
Countless studies tout the physical, mental and social benefits of receiving generosity. But until the 1980s, the effects on the giver were relatively unknown. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a psychology professor at UC Riverside and a leading happiness researcher, conducted a study in 2004 to determine whether committing five random acts of kindness would increase positive emotions. The short-term study revealed promising results with heightened levels of positive emotions, particularly in the participants who carried out all five acts of kindness on the same day. Spreading the acts over a week, Lyubomirsky theorized, led to a repetitive and often unoriginal pattern that either didn’t change the level of positive emotions or, in some cases, even lowered it.
Admittedly, Cecilia said she experienced some form of generosity fatigue around the second week of her challenge. It’s easy to float through the day wrapped up in our own heads, focusing only on what directly impacts us. Consciously searching for new and different ways to improve someone else’s day was more difficult than than maybe any of us could possibly anticipate. We just don’t face that challenge often in society. But then when Cecilia admitted that when she did the nice deed, she nearly always felt a boost of happiness afterward. A 2009 study by social psychologist Jorge A. Barraza, Ph.D., and neuroscientist Paul J. Zak, Ph.D., attributes this to a release of oxytocin, the feel-good chemical in the brain.
According to the study, when people feel empathetic, they release 47 percent more oxytocin into their hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for emotion and memory. The participants felt the urge to act generously—particularly toward strangers. As Matthieu Ricard, Ph.D., a Buddhist monk and best-selling author, writes in Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill: “When we are happy, the feeling of self-importance is diminished and we are more open to others.” Studies show people who have experienced a positive event in the past hour are more likely to help strangers in need. This explains why we help people, even at a cost to ourselves.
In the late ’80s, the term “helper’s high” was used to describe the euphoria feeling associated with volunteering. Beyond happiness, generous people also experienced enhanced creativity, flexibility, resilience and being open to new information. They’re more collaborative at work; they’re able to solve complex problems more easily and they form solid, healthy relationships with others.
As Stephen G. Post, Ph.D., happiness researcher and founder of The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, writes, “It may be people who live generous lives soon become aware that in the giving of self lies the unsought discovery of self as the old selfish pursuit of happiness is subjectively revealed as futile and short-sighted.” Generosity allows us to forget our own self-importance, even temporarily, and look outward to uplift those around us who, in turn, often uplift those around them.
Shawn Achor, a Harvard-trained researcher and The Happiness Guy at SUCCESS, calls this the ripple effect. Our behavior, he discovered, is literally contagious. “Our habits, attitudes and actions spread through a complicated web of connections to infect those around us,” he writes. That’s why we sync up with our best friends, often finishing each other’s sentences and reading each other’s thoughts. It’s also why one negative attitude can spread like a disease across an office and infect everyone’s mood.
So are happier people more generous, or does generosity make us happier? Rather than thinking of it as a cause-and-effect relationship, consider happiness and generosity as intertwining entities. “Generating and expressing kindness quickly dispels suffering and replaces it with lasting fulfillment,” writes Ricard, the Buddhist monk. “In turn the gradual actualization of genuine happiness allows kindness to develop as the natural reflection of inner joy.” Helping behavior increases positive emotions, which increases our sense of purpose, regulates stress, and improves short- and long-term health. All of that contributes to a heightened level of happiness, causing us to feel more generous, creating a circle of happiness and generosity.
Cecilia admitted she failed twice during her month-long challenge. What began as a positive and energizing morning was quickly derailed—a negative social media post, a complaining text, an overwhelmed co-worker. she would refocus her thoughts and tried to make this her kind act for the day. Maybe her questions are our golden questions: What if I can turn this person’s day around? What if I can help him see the positive side of his situation?
What happened? According to Paul Bloom, professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University and author of Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, she had confused empathy with compassion, resulting in empathetic distress and burnout. Empathy requires feeling what others feel, “to experience, as much as you can, the terrible sorrow and pain,” whereas compassion involves concern and a desire to help without the need to mirror someone else’s anguish.
It turns out, you can be too nice. Psychologists Vicki Helgeson and Heidi Fritz created a questionnaire revealing that women are more likely to put others’ needs before their own, often resulting in asymmetrical relationships as well as an increased risk of depression and anxiety. When we experience empathetic burnout, we often shy away from generosity altogether. Feeling taken advantage of, we retreat inward.
Researchers have also theorized that every kind act is ultimately done to benefit ourselves in some way, even subconsciously. This concept, coined “universal egoism,” offers explanations that are easier to accept than true altruism: a desire to help others void of selfish motives. For example, there are multiple situations that can be initially perceived as true altruism but at its core, the kind act is governed by selfish motives. Ben Dean, Ph.D., psychologist and founder of MentorCoach in Maryland, offers three such examples:
The question remains: Is there a truly selfless act of kindness? And does it even matter where our motivations lie? The homeless man in New York still ate a hot meal, and the two little boys at the pharmacy didn’t stay up all night coughing. Isn’t that what matters?
We aren’t consistently generous for a multitude of reasons, but in the traditional corporate setting, the prevailing enemy of generosity is the fear of appearing naïve. (And the possibility of going broke.) After all, isn’t the nice guy the one who finishes last? So we become “Givers” as Adam Grant Ph.D., details in his best-seller Give and Take. In the modern workplace, we are no longer solely evaluated on our work performance, but rather on how we interact as a cohesive unit and how we contribute to the organization as a whole. In fact, Grant’s research reveals this new business landscape paves the way for Givers to succeed and Takers to be left behind. By helping others, we help ourselves.
The important thing to remember is that Givers—especially those predisposed to putting others’ needs before their own—need to know their boundaries. Grant says it begins with distinguishing generosity from its three other attributes: timidity, availability and empathy.
At the risk of sounding cliché, Cecilia admitted that her month of generosity did make her happier. Something about waking up and consciously planning to act selflessly lightened my step and made the morning drag easier to bear. Something about a stranger flashing a smile (albeit a confused one) as she handed them a dog-eared copy of her favorite memoir gave her an energy boost that a triple-shot latte never could.
For a precious hour or so every day, the fear, anxiety, stress and doubt of daily life didn’t plague her thoughts. She stated that she briefly forgot about herself, and it was intoxicating. Friends responded to her seemingly arbitrary good mood with confused laughs.When did being happy without reason become a cause for concern? she wondered. . . ?
Maybe, she thought, her heart was in the right place when she gave the blue-eyed man a hot meal. But maybe, she wondered, her ego was directing her actions that night in the pharmacy checkout lane. And maybe she avoided generosity toward her close friends and co-workers because it was more difficult. Buying coffee for a stranger is easy, detached and allows for a clean exit. Gently pushing a friend to divulge her source of anxiety after she says “I’m fine” is not. After all, altruism and honest self-reflection take time and practice.
Ultimately, thirty days of generosity didn’t make Cecilia a different person, but she did feel different. She didn’t actively look for ways to be generous, but noticed the opportunities anyway. Like the sticky note residue on her bathroom mirror, she could see gentle impressions of her growth where she least expect it: during rush hour, when she gave the benefit of the doubt to the woman cutting into her lane; after a long day of work, when she made time for the struggling friend who needed to talk; and, most important, in the moments when she forgot herself and realized the joy to be found in caring for the people around me.
SO. . .
What does this have to do with us?
N O T H I N G
u n l e s s
we make it
Go Ahead. . .
GIVE IT A GO
Blame it on the Season
. . .the One that’s Coming
and in essence, never ending
UNLESS YOU SAY SO
TAKE THE 30 DAY KINDNESS CHALLENGE
PROVE IT. . .
“I SEE YOU!’
‘I AM HERE!’
“For centuries, African Bushmen have greeted each other in this way. When one becomes aware of his brother or sister coming out of the brush, he exclaims, ‘I See You!’ and then the one approaching rejoices, ‘I Am Here!’
“This timeless bearing witness is both simple and profound, and it is telling that much of our modern therapeutic journey is suffered to this end: to have who we are and where we’ve been be seen. For with this simple and direct affirmation, it is possible to claim our own presence, to say, ‘I Am Here.’
“Those people in our lives who have validated our personhood by seeing us and exclaiming so are the foundations of our self-worth. Think of who they are.
“For me, the first to rejoice at my scrambling into the open was my grandmother. If not for her unequivocal love, I might never have the courage to express myself at all. And, after all, isn’t art in all its forms the beautiful trail of our all-too-human attempts to say, again and again, I Am Here.
“It is important to note that being seen enables us to claim our lives, and then it becomes possible to pass the gift on to others. But just as important as bearing witness is the joy with which these Bushmen proclaim what they see. It is the joy of first seeing and first knowing. This is a gift of love.
“In a culture that erases its humanity, that keeps the act of innocence and beginning invisible, we are sorely in need of being seen with joy, so we can proclaim with equal astonishment and innocence that of all the amazing things that could have been or not, We Are Here.
“As far back as we can remember, people of the oldest tribes, unencumbered by civilization, have been rejoicing in being on earth together. Not only can we do this for each other, it is essential.
“For as stars need open space to be seen, as waves need shore to crest, as dew needs grass to soak into, our vitality depends on how we exclaim and rejoice, ‘I See You!’ ‘I Am Here’”
See. . .
There’s always another way to say it
There’s always another way to hear it
There’s always another way to see it
THERE’S ALWAYS ANOTHER WAY TO BE IT
. . . .Questions, Class?
WHAT MAKES THE HOLY DAYS HIGH is
R E C O G N I T I O N
Can we talk about diversity and cultural competency for a minute. . .
OR A FEW DAYS. . .
OR A SEASON. . .
Every Fall there are about 7 million Jewish holidays that Jewish workers have to navigate. Ok, that’s only a slight exaggeration but that’s what it feels like, especially when they are, at times, completely overlooked or just not recognized
Some years they fall on the weekends but others they fall on the weekdays like this year.
And every Fall, without fail, businesses, affinity groups, organizations etc schedule meetings and events on these very important Jewish holy days. For many Jews, scheduling something on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur is akin to scheduling something for non-Jews on Christmas. It’s pretty discouraging, hurtful and objectionable. In an age of now super-sensitivity to diversity and inclusion, scheduling something on these holy days can even come off as offensive.
So a quick guide to the Jewish holiday season for this year seems to be a very Caring Catalyst KIND of thing to do.
It’s an opportunity for all of us to not only share best wishes for the holidays but take the extra step of rescheduling team meetings, events etc for days that are not Jewish holidays. This will go a long way to making everyone feel included and respected at what is a really busy but very meaningful and important time.
It’s really good to hit the rewind button sometimes
even if it’s all the way back to 1983
to know now
what we were shouting for then
and way before THEN. . .
NEWS FOR THE REAL WORLD
This morning, I want to wake up
with no headlines.
I want to find that my New York Times
has been replaced
with a worn-out copy of The Velveteen Rabbit,
and the Skin Horse
is inviting me to love the world
in all its broken realness.
I want to touch the Earth
where the soft fur
has been rubbed off
and see it with my fingertips.
When I feel the need to know who
is fighting with whom,
and what disaster occurred overnight,
I want to hear
the wind chimes in my backyard
whisper in the breeze,
“I am as real as anything you
will find on the front page.”
When the hard facts are just too hard,
I want to press
the tattered velveteen ears to my cheek
and remember that the hot cup of tea,
and the warm blanket,
and the beloved sleeping by my side
are every bit as real as the rage
that fuels the news,
and for today I want to embrace
the real I can touch
with my hands and see with my eyes,
and let the world rage on without me.
The best way for a little good news today
IS TO MAKE IT
AND ASSURE THAT EVERYONE IS A PART OF IT
In the past couple of days I have been reminded
YOUR BIRTHDAY IS COMING UP
MAN, YOU’RE GETTING OLD. . .
I’ve never been much about
(PERSONAL–MY OWN) Birthdays
and even less about
albeit I’m not all that crazy
the many different ways
the body sneakingly
out of nowhere came
T H I S:
“I asked an elderly man once what it was like to be old and to know the majority of his life was behind him. He told me that he has been the same age his entire life. He said the voice inside of his head had never aged. He has always just been the same boy. His mother’s son. He had always wondered when he would grow up and be an old man. He said he watched his body age and his faculties dull but the person he is inside never got tired. Never aged. Never changed.
Our spirits are eternal. Our souls are forever. The next time you encounter an elderly person, look at them and know they are still a child, just as you are still a child and children will always need love, attention and purpose.”
~ Author unknown & Photography by Rita French
WILL NEVER MAKE YOU OLDER
FRAMED IN MIND
can do that. . .
One of the greatest things
hospice has taught me
c o n t i n u o u s l y
since I began
waaaaaaay back a few calendar pages ago in
is out of all the things
L I F E
can take from you
e x t r a c t s
EVEN ON A DEATH BED
and my ability to kindly share it
(especially to share IT)
T H I S
is what it means
not to get older
but become more
much more than an
So I’m just not looking forward to having a few more
Birthday Candles lit
but blowing a few more
o u t. . .
IT’S THE ONE THING
THAT EVERYONE STOPS AND REACHES
whether it’s family
whether it’s work
whether it’s downtime
whether it’s personal as personal can be
H A P P I N E S S
Dopamine is often associated with reward-seeking and goal-oriented behavior.
Oxytocin is often associated with feelings of love, affection, and bonding.
Serotonin is often associated with mood regulation and happiness.
Endorphins are often associated with stimulation, energy, and feelings of relief (pain-killers).
Are you getting a healthy dose of all these “happiness chemicals?”
NONE OF THESE 100+ HAPPINESS HACKS
Will ever happen
try’s on for size. . .
Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, what do you have to lose??
H A P P I N E S S
IT WAS JUST TWO WEEKS AGO. . .
C H R I S T M A S
but it might as well be
TWO YEARS AGO. . .
does it feel like it was just
. . .and more importantly,
IS IT OFFICIALLY OVER?
When Christmas has seemingly been
is it over
When Christmas Isn’t (Over) is it. . .
If you’d think so
If you’d bet on it
then read a real life
Act of Kindness
that took place at Heinens
a local grocery store
A truly vivid-in-color unforgettable act of kindness:
This morning I was grocery shopping at Heinens and as the grocery store clerk was informing me of my total I realized that I had left my debit card in my car. This adorable woman in line behind me comes running up to the credit card machine and offers to use her credit card and let me pay her back via Venmo. Once my transaction is complete, I head back over to her so we can exchange our info and settle up. She wouldn’t let me pay her back and bought my groceries! I was literally speechless and quite emotional. What she didn’t know is tomorrow is the ten year anniversary of me losing my eldest child in an accident and I’m always a little scatter-brained and off this time of year. That I just recently went through a divorce, have had to move, haven’t been able to go back to work so that I can e-learn with my two sweet kids and haven’t seen my family in months. I guess what I’m trying to say is that she could never have known all that I’m going through, and her extreme act of kindness has touched me so deeply and profoundly. I hear of these things happening, but I’ve never been on the receiving end of such a kind gesture. I would love to know who you are to formerly thank you. And seriously…I’ll pay you back! Thank you!!!
Well. . .
Maybe just maybe
isn’t over until you say so
(or worse, SHOW it is)
m a y b e
WHEN CHRISTMAS ISN’T (OVER)
Trees Get Decorated
Cookies Get Baked
Parties Get Partied
Gifts Are Given
Presents Get Opened
Hands Get Held
Kisses Last Longer
Hugs Are Tighter
Snow Is Prettier
Cold is Warmed
When Christmas isn’t (Over)
When Christmas Isn’t (Over)
Begin And Begin And Begin
is the Refrain to every song
Without a hint of Evergreen
Without a warm glow of Candle Light
To lead you from
For An Ever
When Christmas Isn’t (Over)
Be the Everliving Proof. . .
((( I wrote this blog post about an unforgettable Act of Kindness last weekend after I saw the blog post on the Secret Bay page way before the the annivisary events that took place at the Capital on 1/6 in 2021. We just observed the unfortunate events that took place a year ago, yesterday. Does it fit? Should I have scrapped the Post and harshly and vehemently denounced what appeared in living vivid color on our televisions/device’s and now what we are being reminded of a year later? Well, I chose to prove one of the points I have literally devoted my life: THAT CHRISTMAS ISN’T (OVER), isn’t a day or a Season so much as a lifestyle and now more than ever needs to be lived and most especially experienced. As a fellow Caring Catalyst, join me; please join me. )))
N O W
is far past the time
W O R D S
S A I D. . .
and when they DO
THE KINDNESS/HAPPINESS FACTOR
comes to be. . .
JILL SUTTIE, a freelance jounalist for GREATER GOOD shares with us what we most likely have suspect and now, hopefully more EXPERIENCED than ever before. . .and none to soon. . .
We all know that it’s good to be kind to others. Kindness is an important virtue for sustaining relationships, which helps to build a trusting and cooperative society.
You may have also heard that kindness makes you happier and healthier. But what does that mean for you? What acts of kindness will make us happiest, and who tends to benefit the most?
A newly published review of decades of kindness research provides some answers.
In this paper, researchers analyzed the results from 126 research articles looking at almost 200,000 participants from around the world. The studies they chose all had to meet certain criteria, such as including only adults and reporting good statistical data; some were experiments, where people did a kindness practice to observe its effects, while others just surveyed people about how kind and happy they were. The studies measured well-being in a variety of ways, including both mental and physical health.
As expected, people who were kind tended to have higher well-being. Lead researcher Bryant Hui was surprised the relationship was not stronger than it was, but he was still encouraged by the results.
“Although the overall relationship between prosocial (kind and helpful) behavior and well-being is weak, given that so many people around the world act prosocially, the modest effect can still have a significant impact at a societal level,” he says.
A small effect like this—an average of all the participants’ experiences—can sometimes hide other patterns going on below the surface. So, he and his colleagues considered when kindness might have a bigger impact on our well-being.
One thing they found was that people who performed random, informal acts of kindness, like bringing a meal to a grieving friend, tended to be happier than people who performed more formal acts of kindness, like volunteering in a soup kitchen. It’s possible that informal helping may fill our more basic psychological needs for autonomy and close relationships, which is why it could lead to greater happiness.
The researchers also found that people who were kind tended to be higher in “eudaimonic happiness” (a sense of meaning and purpose in life) more than “hedonic happiness” (a sense of pleasure and comfort). Perhaps this makes sense, given that being kind involves effort, which takes away from comfort but could make people feel better about themselves and their abilities, which would provide a sense of meaning.
Being kind came with greater eudaimonic happiness for women than for men, too. According to Hui, this could be because, in many cultures, women are expected to be kinder than men; so, they may have more to gain from it. And younger participants experienced more happiness when they were kind than older participants, perhaps for developmental reasons, he says. Younger adults are at a stage of life where they tend to be figuring out their identity and actively seeking the purpose and meaning in life that kindness can bring, less so than pleasure and comfort.
What other, specific benefits might kindness have? The researchers found that people who were kind tended to have higher self-esteem and a sense of self-efficacy. To a lesser degree, they also experienced less depression and anxiety and improved physical health—with the links to health being strongest in older adults.
Hui doesn’t know for sure why acting kind might have these different effects on different groups, but he points to theories put forth by researcher Elizabeth Midlarsky: Being kind may make us feel better about ourselves as a person or about the meaning of our lives, confirm our self-competence, distract us from our own troubles and stressors, give us a warm-glow feeling, or help us be more socially connected with others. All of these could potentially improve our well-being—reducing our stress, improving our mood, or providing community—and they could hold more importance at different stages of life, too.
By understanding the connection between kindness and well-being, Hui thinks researchers can design better studies that take into account all of the relevant factors, and innovators could create more effective kindness practices. In the future, he hopes there will be kindness apps or online programs that could reach more people, generating a larger impact around the world.
In the meantime, Hui says, the biggest take-home from his research is something he heard the Dalai Lama say long ago: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
“Helping others is a universal virtue and a very affordable and economic way to benefit others’ and our own well-being,” he says. “As the saying goes, helping others is helping yourself.”
Want to start a
It’s really much easier than you think
and the results are
I N S T A N E O U S
Be your own
Be your own
PAY IT BEHIND
. . .seriously. . .
go through any
and pay for the person behind you
you’ll not only feed or hydrate
(or caffeinate like I usually do through Starbucks)
but you’ll get an extra jolt too. . .
IS IT REALLY JUST THIS SIMPLE:
THE KINDNESS/HAPPINESS FACTOR