Being Kind Leads to Happiness

By: Jenna Savage


While being considerate may seem to only help the person who is on the receiving end, that isn’t the only benefit. It turns out that performing acts of generosity and expressing gratitude can make people feel happier, according to a recent U.S. News & World Report article.

The idea that acting positive leads to feeling positive is not new. Past research has shown that when a person engages in positive activities, they feel better. With that in mind, University of California, Riverside psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky conducted research to determine how to maximize the amount of happiness that a person derives from such activities.

During one of her studies, she had participants engage in acts of kindness over a 10-week period. Throughout the 10 weeks, Lyubomirsky discovered that the amount of happiness derived from such activities depends on both frequency and variety. Performing the same act over and over again would cause the initial boost in happiness to taper out, but if the participants performed different acts of kinds over time, their happiness stayed elevated.

Lyubomirsky’s work relates to studies conducted by Harvard Business School associate professor Michael Norton. According to another U.S. News & World Report article, Norton gathered data from a Gallup World Poll, which asked participants to explain how they spent money that they gained unexpectedly and how they felt about their economic standing. Those who donated to charity felt wealthier, and Norton correlated feeling wealthy with feeling happier overall.

Both studies are considered preliminary, as they have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but the indication is that being kind is a good way to maximize happiness. If you’d like to start engaging in more acts of kindness to see if you, too, can get a boost in happiness, consider the following good deeds, which are derived from U.S. News & World Report. They can help you do something nice without taking up too much of your time:

  • Bring treats to work or class. Or bring a special treat for someone who needs to be cheered up.
  • Pay for a stranger’s meal or coffee. If you have the opportunity, tell your cashier or barista that you want to pay for the person behind you. This works especially well at drive-through windows, because the cashier will already have the total ready.
  • Help a neighbor clean his or her yard. Yard work is both time consuming and difficult, but having help can make a big difference.
  • Seize the moment. If you find yourself in a position where you can help someone out, take it!