We all find ourselves with busy schedules, especially in the fast pace of living here in Southern California, but I’ve found that simple acts of kindness can make someone’s day and brighten our own sense of well-being. My colleague Kate Johnson is interested in blogging about health and spirituality, and the importance of spiritual thinking in achieving and maintaining good health. Kate is the media and legislative contact for Christian Science in Maryland.
My husband came out of Seven-Eleven with a smile on his face. I was curious because he had not entered the store with a smile. I asked him what happened in the store. He said the woman in front of him in line paid for his drink. She had a gift card and simply said to the cashier, “Put his drink on my tab.” I remembered the woman that came out just before my husband. Her hands were full – a drink in one hand and a couple of bags in the other, talking on a cell phone tucked between her shoulder and her ear.
Even though she had a lot going on, she had taken the time to pay for my husband’s drink. I resolved right then to be better about helping my fellow man no matter how busy I was. For the rest of the day my husband felt this kindness as he smiled while letting other cars into his line of traffic.
This experience reminded me of an idea about happiness shared by Mary Baker Eddy, a spiritual healer and author, “Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love.” To me, this means happiness is natural for all of us because it comes from God (Truth and Love). We can always draw upon this innate sense of spiritual joy no matter what is going on around us. It is always an option.
That one good deed follows another has been going on for centuries. The phraseology now is “paying it forward.” Wikipedia delves into the history of “paying it forward.” It was first brought out in a prizewinning play in ancient Athens in 317 BC. The title of the play was “The Grouch.” The concept was rediscovered and described by Benjamin Franklin in 1784.
A recently launched initiative and website, “28 Days of Kindness” encourages people to commit to doing someone a good deed every day during the month of February (already known as the month of love). Jessica Watson, owner of the website, says hits to her website and Facebook page have come from 15 different countries and she has listed more than 1500 members. And, it is growing! Doing good deeds is a continuous thing and she has already set goals for next year.
It’s not hard to understand why people are attracted to this activity. Studies show, not only do acts of kindness make us – and the recipient – feel better, they also improve our health.
In one study, conducted by researchers in Great Britain in 2010 and published in the Journal of Social Psychology, 86 participants were assigned to one of 3 groups. “One group was instructed to perform a daily act of kindness for the next 10 days. Another group was also told to so something new each day over those 10 days. The third group received no instructions.”
After the 10 days the participants were asked to complete a survey. The groups that practiced acts of kindness and engaged in novel acts experienced a boost in happiness; the third group didn’t get any happier. The findings in this study suggest that there are benefits to acts of kindness.
The role happiness plays in health is increasingly being studied by researchers who are asking questions such as:
- Could a sunny outlook mean fewer colds and less heart disease?
- Do hope and curiosity somehow protect against hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory tract infections?
- Do happier people live longer – and, if so why?
They are finding the answers to be yes in many cases.
In a 2007 study significant health problems were tied to things such as sustained stress or fear, chronic anger and anxiety. And, in that same study, researcher Laura Kubzansky, HSPH associate professor of society, human development, and health, found that “emotional vitality – a sense of enthusiasm, of hopefulness, of engagement in life, and the ability to face life’s stresses with emotional balance – appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The protective effect was distinct and measurable.” She continues, “Everyone needs to find a way to be in the moment, to find a restorative state that allows them to put down their burdens.”
The rest of Eddy’s quote “Happiness is spiritual,” goes like this: “It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone but requires all mankind to share it.”
Doing good deeds for others is an unselfish act through which we share our spiritual goodness by “paying it forward” and encourage all mankind to do the same.
Should we not commit to at least one good deed of kindness every day? It is after all divinely natural to us. Let’s discover for ourselves how much happier and, yes, healthier, we can be.