There’s an old saying that kindness, like a boomerang, always returns. Now there’s science to back that up.
A York University study found that people who performed small acts of kindness —for five to 15 minutes every day for a week — increased their happiness and self-esteem.
After six months, many were still actively helping others and were reporting that their happiness and self-esteem levels were still up, according to the study, in the Journal of Happiness Studies.
Researchers recruited 700 people of all ages online at the end of 2007. 80 per cent were women, and most were depressed.
The first week’s exercise required participants to help or interact with another person every day in a supportive and considerate’ way – suggestions included “talking to a homeless person’’ or “being more loving to those around you.’’
The study authors report that the positive effects were very strong.
After three months just over a third of the group was still participating and performing acts of kindness — one to three days a week — and feeling the same positive effects. After six months, which was the end of the study, there were 179 responses with most still doing a good deed one to three days a week and feeling happier for it.
Despite the high dropout rate, the researchers say the results show that the exercise of performing acts of kindness increases happiness and self-esteem.
They suspect that the people who joined the study wanted relief from depression, and charitable acts made them feel better about ourselves. It reaffirmed that they were good people, which is a highly-valued trait in our society. It is also possible that being kind to others helped them be kind to themselves.