Do the Right Thing

Spirit, science, and health

One Word to Remember in the New Year for a Better You!

Focus on kindness in 2013 and you'll be happier, healthier, as will others too.

So, 2013 is about a week old thus far. How are your New Year resolutions going? As I discussed in my most recent blog post behavior is very hard to change and most people at this time of year seem to focus on changing behavior associated with diet, exercise, money, jobs, and romantic relationships. These are all fine New Year resolutions but I tend to think that if we really want to help change our lives and the lives of others for the better in a positive and productive direction during the New Year there is one word we should focus on like a laser beam in 2013: Kindness!

Think about it. Kindness is needed more than ever and is actually contagious. If you’re kind to others, they will likely be kind to you. Research finds that kindness tends to be catchy in a good way. Acts of kindness improves your mood too. In our very troubled times given the challenging economy, a highly dysfunctional and mean spirited political system in Washington, the recent horrific shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school as well as the recent terrible shootings in Colorado, New York, and so many other places, don’t you think that a focus on kindness might go a long way for ourselves and others now?

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What do we mean by kindness anyway?  We have to have operational definitions to be clearer. In a nutshell one way to think about kindness is to treat others as you wish to be treated. The Golden Rule may be about as good as it gets to help define kindness. Additionally, you might think of ways to be more gracious, generous, thoughtful, loving, and so forth as well. 

As mentioned, behavior is so hard to change and so we need to practice kindness daily and remember to use it as a mantra too. Being kind won't solve all problems of course but it sure will help.  I bet if you focus on being more kind in 2013 you'll be happier, healthier, and those around you will be too. Try it.

So, what do you think?


Thomas Plante, PhD, ABPP, is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, SJ University Professor at Santa Clara University and Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University.


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