(Guest Blogger Talya Steinberg, Psy.D)
Acts of kindness are basic to every moral code and are probably so for a good reason. Recent research suggests that kindness may improve resiliency by promoting feelings of happiness and peace and supporting immunity. Cultivating happiness and peace is a key to resiliency because it bolsters one’s ability to stay grounded during difficult times. It also keeps the body healthy and helps ward off disease. Additionally, by improving interpersonal relationships, kindness can help build support systems so crucial during crises.
Over the past several years the subject of kindness has been receiving increased attention in the scientific community. Numerous studies have shown that receiving, giving, or even witnessing acts of kindness increases immunity and the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood in the brain. A recent study at the University of British Columbia showed that even toddlers may show psychological benefits from giving. Researchers compared toddlers’ displays of happiness after giving their own Goldfish cracker or a Goldfish cracker handed to them by a researcher to a puppet and found that toddlers displayed greater happiness when they shared their own crackers than when they gave away a cracker provided by the researcher. These findings suggest that humans, as innately social beings, may even be biologically predisposed toward acts of kindness. Kindness may foster community and sharing of resources, which ensures resiliency and survival. Additionally, kindness may nourish one’s sense of purpose and meaning, and reduce tension accumulated through interpersonal conflict. To quote the Dalai Lama, “When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.”