Humans prefer to be happy. People often ask each other, “How are you doing?” or “What have you been up to?” and expect to hear positive answers. We feel good when people we know are happy. How do we find happiness so we can answer those questions positively for ourselves? Science says the key to happiness is kindness.
Many studies support the finding that kindness is the key to happiness. Researchers from Oxford and Bournemouth universities completed a meta-analysis of happiness research and found that people receive satisfaction from helping others. In study after study, showing kindness helped people feel better and happier about their lives.
Kind people care about others. They are concerned about how others are doing and are happy to help them. Kindness allows people to begin supportive social relationships and make new friends. Being kind to someone is a positive interaction that can grow into a healthy relationship and bring happiness.
How Kindness and Happiness Work Together
Scientists at the University of California Berkley’s Create Good Science Center reviewed studies that show how kindness and happiness and linked in a positive feedback loop. In a positive feedback loop, being kind leads to greater happiness and increased happiness makes us want to be kind more often. The kinder we are, the happier we are, and vice versa, creating a cycle of feeling good and doing good.
In one study, some participants were asked to remember a time they spent $20 or $100 on themselves. Other participants were asked to remember a time they spent $20 or $100 on someone else. After thinking about these questions, participants were asked to rate their happiness.
Most people rated their happiness higher when they recalled a time that they spent money on someone else instead of themselves. The value they spent didn’t matter. Most people rated their happiness as high whether they spent $20 or $100 on someone.
Next, the researchers gave the participants a small sum of money and told them they could either spend it on themselves or donate the money to others through a charity. The choice was kept anonymous, so participants wouldn’t feel compelled to be kind.
People who rated their happiness higher after remembering giving a previous gift were more likely to donate the new money to charity. The happier they felt about being kind before, the more likely they were to be kind again. The interaction between feeling happy and being kind made them want to repeat their kindness and feel more happiness.
Ways to Create Happiness with Kindness
The television show Today recently reported on ways you can show kindness and increase your happiness. They listed actions you can take to be kind:
• Thank someone publicly
• Greet people by name
• Practice self-care
• Treat yourself and someone else
• Watch for kindness around you
Thanking someone privately is a kind act, but thanking them publicly takes kindness to a higher level. Imagine posting a heartfelt thank you to someone on social media. By sharing your kindness, others notice something positive about that person and may reflect on times that person was kind to them. People may add their own experiences of kindness to your post or tweet, spreading kindness to many others. In turn, that kindness grows, making everyone involved happier.
Greeting people by name shows kindness and makes a person feel valued. When you care enough to remember their name, they feel happy. Their interaction with you is more positive, making you happier too.
Spending time on yourself and showing yourself kindness leads to greater happiness. It’s easier to be happy when you are at peace with yourself and content your life.
If you chose to treat yourself, your feeling of happiness is limited to that act. Choosing to treat someone else along with yourself extends happiness beyond your immediate satisfaction. The “Pay It Forward” movement capitalizes on this by suggesting you share your self-kindness with someone else. Purchasing a coffee or meal for the person behind you in line, donating an item of clothing you like but don’t wear, and leaving positive messages in different places are all ways to pay it forward.
A study at Oxford University showed that witnessing acts of kindness increased happiness, even for people who weren’t performing the kindness. When you see someone being kind, it makes you happy, and you are more likely to be kind too. Being in an environment of kindness increases your happiness.
Kindness has been shown to influence and lead to happiness. When you’re happy, you are kinder to yourself and others. Kindness is truly the key to happiness!