The Science Of Kindness
Kindness and compassion are considered to be instrumental buffers for the negative effects of stress, thought to be perpetuated by strengthening positive interpersonal connections. Several studies have demonstrated these effects in the clinical setting, with kindness being shown to elicit elevation in mood, increase in altruism, and the promotion of connection to others.
The Science of Kindness
Kindness is considered to be a form of positive social connection which is shown to buffer stress via multifactorial mechanisms. Positive interpersonal connexion is produced as a consequence of pro-social behavior, for example, donations, volunteerism, and providing social support. alternative descriptions of kindness include compassion, generosity, and care, among other related terms. Through engagement in pro-social behavior, happiness is induced, which in turn, can reinforce continued pro-social behavior.
As part of the effect of prosocial behavior, is the induction of other-praising moral emotion, a term which describes the feelings of positivity generated when witnessing authors engage in virtuous acts such as generosity, selflessness, love, and kindness. Uplifting feelings physical sensations, including warmth and tearfulness.
A study published in 2021 examined by the kindness media could affect viewers of this material in a real-world pediatric healthcare setting. Both parents and staff were randomized to view kindness media or standard televised children programming; participants were then asked to complete self-rated emotions in a survey before watching the media and subsequently complete this survey after 8 minutes of viewing.
Participants were informed of the receipt of a gift card for participation and after they completed the survey, asked whether they wanted to keep the gift card or donate it. Among the 50 participants surveyed, those who watched kindness media reported significantly greater feelings of happiness, calmness, gratefulness, and reduction in irritation.
In a study conducted in 2019, researchers investigated the effects of a seven-day kindness activity intervention on changes in subjective happiness in participants. The study sought to determine whether different manifestations of kindness, as narrated by the type of activity prescribed, could produce differential effects on happiness. This study supplemented an earlier systematic review and meta-analysis of the psychological effects of kindness that revealed that performing these acts boosts happiness and an overall sense of well-being.
To determine differential effects of kindness, researchers compared acts of kindness to strong social ties, novel acts of self-kindness, weak social ties, and observing kindness, as compared to a control group who were not assigned any acts of kindness. Overall, results demonstrated that performing kindness activities for a week increased happiness.
In addition, there was a strong positive correlation between the number of kind acts and an increase in feelings of happiness. Interestingly, the effect did not differ across the different types of experimental groups, which suggested that kindness to strong and weak ties, kindness to self, and simply observing active kindness all equally induce positive effects on happiness.
It has long been known that mental processes can exert influence over pain intensity as compared to physiological processes. In keeping with this knowledge, the use of psychological treatments more generally, as well as specific interventions that are based on active self-kindness, such as mindfulness, cognitive behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy, have been used, on shown, to be beneficial for those suffering from long term pain.
Compassion-focused therapy (CFT), a form of psychotherapy that integrates techniques from CBT as well as concepts from evolutionary, social, developmental, and Buddhist psychology, as well as neuroscience, is designed to teach compassion. CFT is particularly useful for those who suffer from high levels of self-criticism and shame, which subsequently results in difficulty feeling warmth toward and being kind to, themselves or their peers.
A study that used interventions based on compassion and loving-kindness investigated how this affected conceptualization of persistent pain. Loving-kindness is an accessible way to develop soothing systems which may be relatively underdeveloped in some people do too everyday precious or past difficulties.
The study took place in a routine clinical setting, in an uncontrolled, unpowered study. Participants were asked to complete a survey both pre and post-intervention. This revealed that patients who engaged in the intervention so reasonable improvements in pain distress and intensity, anxiety, self-efficacy, and depression. Patients further noted that they experience changes in the categories of feeling different, doing things differently. Therefore, researchers concluded that interventions based on compassion, which include mindfulness and loving-kindness exercises can potentially have clinical use in routine pain management strategies.
The feelings elicited by kindness include pleasant feelings and rewarding effects; that is, a general reporting of a positive state, our reliance on neurobiological processes, and molecular principles. These processes involve the limbic motivation and reward circuits in the brain which are autoregulated.
Alongside the well-being effects, kindness can also reduce the incidence of the common cold. This comes from evidence sourced from a randomized controlled trial in which patients who rated their clinicians as showing greater empathy demonstrated a reduction in common cold severity and duration, as well as increases in immune response levels.
Kindness, whatever form it takes, appears to induce physiological and psychological responses in beneficial participants. Early results from randomized controlled trials are promising and indicate that kindness-focused interventions alright all tangible fields of exploration with regards to pain management, mental health, and in the context of being a protective factor against physical illness such as the cold. The effect of kindness is also scalable, as they induce feeding and responses in the individual as well as recipients.
Hidaya is a science communications enthusiast who has recently graduated and is embarking on a career in the science and medical copywriting. She has a B.Sc. in Biochemistry from The University of Manchester. She is passionate about writing and is particularly interested in microbiology, immunology, and biochemistry.
We can all agree that life throws unexpected curve balls our way. Regardless of our success, no one person is free from the ups and downs that make up the journey of life. Hardship comes in many forms from loneliness, financial strain, illness, trauma, loss, feelings of inadequacy and the list goes on and on. However, with kindness comes hope. And with hope we can overcome every obstacle, we can rise above and tap into a strength we never knew existed. Kindness is the secret ingredient that makes life worth living.
Students who performed acts of kindness with their peers, families and in the community had greater academic success than those who simply recorded seeing acts of kindness over a span of three months (Price-Mitchell, 2013).
Harvard researchers Fowler and Christakis (2008) investigate the phenomenon known as Social Contagion which explores how behaviors and even emotions spread throughout a social network, even up to 3 degrees of separation. Performing random acts of kindness can have an impact on happiness within a social network up to 3 degrees of separation. Meaning, that if one person engages in an act of kindness, a person 3 degrees removed from that individual will benefit from its impact.
Children who learn about and experience kindness tend to have stronger relationships with others because of their ability to empathize with how others feel. It is an important social skill that lasts throughout a lifetime and is seminal in adolescent and adult years (Hughes, 2013).
Engaging in kind acts allows students to get involved in seminal developmental activities that builds a greater sense of togetherness. The connectedness, rooted in kindness, fosters fondness and compassion toward one another.
Helping can enhance our feelings of joyfulness, emotional resilience, and vigor, and can reduce the unhealthy sense of isolation. The health benefits and sense of well-being return for hours or even days whenever the helping act is remembered. Additionally, more kindness = less pain; a decrease in both the intensity and the awareness of physical pain can occur. (Luk, 2001).
Experiencing and performing acts of kindness provide an increased sense of self-worth, greater happiness, and optimism, as well as a decrease in feelings of helplessness and depression, is achieved (Luk, 2001).
This is a wonderful book that focuses on kindness, bringing in work from a variety of different disciplines. If you want to learn to bring more kindness into your life, this book is a good place to start.
For many years Tara Cousineau, Ph.D., has shared her message about the power of kindness and compassion to lift others out of the distress and despair of every- day living: from daily hassles to wrestling with inner feelings of low self-worth, and sense of disconnection. Putting her message into a book about our innate ability to care and be kind and how to nurture this capacity is timely and much needed. I, for one, would welcome it as a resource for clients and colleagues.
Using practical techniques supported by research, Tara offers simple yet powerful exercises that reconnect us to qualities of compassion and kindness, and in the process, incline our minds and hearts to dwell in these states more naturally. The Kindness Cure gives us carefully considered, warmly delivered keys to a deeper experience of kindness and connectedness.
Dr. Tara Cousineau has created a ground-breaking beautifully written book on kindness. It is a forgotten concept but one which is vital for our health and well-being, especially in the times we live in now. This important book contains up to date scientifically-based information, effective strategies for incorporating or reintroducing kindness into our lives, with enough personal and patient anecdotes to keep the reader interested and motivated. Even though I have been a therapist for 30 years and thought I knew a bit about kindness, reading this book truly challenged me to create more ways to incorporate more into my life, with my patients, my family and friends, and myself.