Way back when you were small, some wise adult probably explained to you that not only does being kind make the world a nicer place to live in and other people happy, it also makes you happy too. It was great advice to get you to stop hitting that one annoying kid in your kindergarten class, but was it actually true?
If you've ever looked around at our cutthroat world and wondered about the value of kindness, recent research out of Oxford University is for you. Using rigorous science it proves that just seven days of small, random acts of kindness is enough to bring significantly more joy to your life.
Science proves your mom was right.
The study was conducted by Oxford scientists in conjunction with what has to be one of the world's sweetest nonprofits -- Kindness.org, which is dedicated to promoting kindness to make the world a better place. In a Medium post the researchers walk through the study design in exhaustive detail, but the basic idea is simple: recruit 691 people and get them to perform small acts of kindness for seven days, either for strangers or loved ones. Then compare their happiness levels before and after this do-gooder week.
With careful rigor the researchers included a control group and used statistical analysis to test any resulting changes in mood were actually meaningful and not just flukes. What did the number crunching reveal? Here's the bottom line in dry, scientific language:
"We found that our measures increased in the intervention groups, but not in the control group. That means that the kindness intervention had a positive effect on wellbeing and positive social emotions."
Or in everyday terms, your mom was right. Even just a week of sending thank you notes and leaving bigger than normal tips will fill your life with noticeably more joy.
15 ideas for random acts of kindness to get you started
Is this the most gob-smacking, unexpected scientific finding you'll ever hear about? No. But it is one of the most important and practical. Living in a modern world saturated with loneliness, division, and gloom, this study is a lovely reminder that making both yourself happier and the world a bit better is within reach.
To make putting this research to use even easier, the team behind it helpfully included a list of small acts of kindness they gave to study participants to spark ideas and help anyone begin their own mood-boosting regime of daily kindness.
"We specifically selected acts based on affordability, ease of opportunity and commonality," note the researchers, so most of the following suggestions should be within your reach no matter your means or specific situation:
Give a book, some art, or music -- and include a note of kindness
Ask someone if you can help them with a problem
Meditate on kindness
Buy coffee for someone
Send a handwritten note or thank you card to someone
Share a positive newspaper or magazine story
Give a plant
Spend time with someone who is lonely
Pick up litter from around your home or office
Do a favor for a neighbor (i.e. water their garden or trim their hedges)
Invite someone to watch a film with you
Bake a treat and give it to someone
Donate useful items
Leave a generous tip
Write a positive comment on a blog
Go ahead and make a pledge to do at least one small act of kindness for the next seven days and let us know how it affects you in the comments.