The Selfish Benefits of Kindness

The other day I was in a coffee shop and the
guy in front of me yelled at the barista because his grande caramel frappuccino was a double
shot instead of a triple. Being a jerk may feel sort of gratifying in
the short-term, but I started to wonder: does it actually make us happier? When you think of things that would make you
happier, what comes to mind? Is it going on a vacation? Spending more time with your friends? Or winning the lottery? It may surprise you, but research shows that
a major way we can boost our own well-being is by being kind to others. Kindness can increase our life satisfaction,
decrease pain, and even affect our bodies at a cellular level. I’m Vanessa and you’re watching BrainCraft,
where we explore the psychology in your everyday life. Now, to explore how kindness impacts your
mood, researchers at the University of California, assigned undergraduate students to spend an
hour and a half doing kind acts on campus. These acts included giving compliments, paying
for parking meters, and carrying items for others. Afterwards, students reported increased optimism
and life satisfaction. Their findings suggest that kindness can improve
your mood. Don’t have an extra hour and a half for
kindness today? That’s okay too. Research shows people assigned to perform
one act of kindness each day for ten days reported increased life satisfaction compared
to a control group that didn’t intentionally perform kind acts. Adults aren’t the only ones who benefit
from dishing out kindness! In another study, children assigned to performing
3 kinds acts per week gained more friends over the course of a month This all goes to show that just a few kind
acts per week can also have benefits! But there’s more to kindness than just improving
your mood. A lot of research has explored the impact
of something called loving-kindness based meditation, a Buddist practice where one focuses
on extending unconditional, unselfish affection and kindness towards all people. Studies suggest that just 3 sessions of this
meditation can improve focus; and just 8 sessions was shown to decrease pain in a group of patients
with chronic low back pain. Though perhaps most surprisingly, kindness
may even affect how fast our cells age. One study found that women who practiced loving-kindness
meditation had relatively longer telomeres than non-practitioners. Telomeres are these caps at the ends of chromosomes
that get shorter and shorter as we age and shorter telomeres are associated with earlier
mortality. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why loving-kindness
meditation is associated with longer telomeres, but chronic stress is known to shorten them. They think this meditation may reduce stress
therefore leading to relatively longer telomeres. So how can you learn to be kind and reap all
of these benefits for yourself? One way is to simply set kindness goals. Purposefully performing just one act of kindness
each day is enough to see measurable benefits. It doesn’t seem to matter who you are kind
to: people assigned to perform acts of kindness to either friends or strangers report similar
increases in happiness. Acts of kindness can be big or small. Give a stranger a compliment. Call your mom just to say hi. Buy coffee for a coworker. Donate blood. Or… like this video! We don’t often think about how being kind
to others can have all sorts of benefits for us. But if you want to feel happy, have less pain,
and maybe even age more slowly, stop being a jerk and start being kind.


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