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Survival of the Kindest

- by Maitree Vora


One day, whilst travelling on a packed local bus with a friend, we somehow managed to get a couple of seats for ourselves. At the next stop, a lady boarded - looking fatigued. My friend who was sitting beside me immediately got up and offered the lady her seat. This act of kindness made the tired lady happy, but did it also make my friend happy? 

Does kindness make its preacher happy? IT DOES.

In the research article ‘Pursuing Happiness: the architecture of sustainable change’ Lyubomirsky (2005) tells us that by doing random acts of kindness one can take intentional effort to make oneself happier.

So, when we are kind towards others, we not only make them happy but also add to our happiness. Almost like a Buy One Get One Free offer! Kindness creates a ripple effect - spreads positivity and love both ways. 

We come from a culture where we believe that the nice people finish last. We are constantly competing, pulling each other down but does that make us happy? Another Spanish study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that when employees are givers and receivers of kindness, they become happy. However, in the study even the control group experienced higher levels of life and job satisfaction. Hence, everyone involved - the giver, receiver and the viewer benefitted from the ripple effect of kindness. So, when my friend gave up her seat to the lady, it made me feel good too – although I was neither the giver nor the receiver, merely a witness, but it did impact me as well.

Survival of the fittest has evolved to survival of the kindest. Yes, you read that right.

Dacher Keltner, psychology professor and director of Berkeley Social Interaction Lab states that he was inspired by Darwin’s view on human goodness. In his book ‘Born to be Good: The Science of Meaningful life’ he explains how positive emotions play a huge role in human happiness. According to him, Darwin believed that human beings are a social and caring species. Based on Darwin’s detailed description of emotions, Keltner conducted research and concluded that emotions lie at the core of human capacity for virtue and cooperation.

Do you want to test the kindness ripple effect and its power? Try doing at least one random act of kindness every day. It could be something as simple as smiling at someone, giving them a glass of water, checking up on someone. Acts of kindness do not have to be significant or visible. However, even a small act can yield a significant outcome – one that will not only benefit the receiver, but also you.

Amelia Earhart once said, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees." 

Sowing the seeds of kindness today into your life will help you cultivate a garden full of fruit trees tomorrow. In that garden, you would not be alone. You will be with people who have been touched by the ripple effect of kindness. 

By Maitree Vora
Clinical Psychologist and part of the Happyness Squad at House of Cheer

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