We are always advised to “pay it forward,” meaning commit random acts of kindness for strangers and friends. Not only does a random act of kindness make the recipient feel happy and grateful, but it has been said to make the givers feel better about themselves, too. The holiday season is a time when people are especially encouraged to pay it forward thanks to the holiday spirit and movies like A Christmas Carol. Now, science may actually back up the claim that being nice makes us feel better.
Last year, a mental health therapist at Stanford University, Sonja Lyubomirsky, decided to put the kindness-fulfillment connection to the test. She asked a group of students to commit five random acts of kindness of their choice every week for six weeks. As a result, the students reported higher levels of happiness than the control group. The students who performed all five acts of kindness in one day reported the highest levels of happiness.
Previous studies have indicated that altruistic people are happier, but Lyubomirsky’s was the first to find that good deeds directly contribute to an increase in well-being. There is no need to make an overnight transformation as big as Ebenezer Scrooge’s. This holiday season and in 2014, aim for one random act of kindness a day. You might be surprised at how good you’ll feel.