• Curtis Barrett

Kindness is Contagious. No, really!

You’ve probably heard the saying, “kindness is contagious.” But, did you know that this is actually backed by science?

Maybe you’ve seen someone pay it forward at a coffee shop, cleaning a park, or helping someone with their unruly grocery bags and thought to yourself, “isn’t that nice?” Perhaps this act inspired you – made you want to do a kind deed for someone else. This is the idea of moral elevation, or that high we feel when witnessing compassion, morality and kindness.

Studies have shown that moral elevation inspires optimism and makes people want to be a better person. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt sought to understand why seeing kindness in others has such a profound effect on us. To do so, he showed one group of people video clips from a documentary about Mother Theresa. The other group watched an “emotionally neutral” documentary and a clip from America’s Funniest Home Videos. Participants who watched the documentary about Mother Theresa reported feeling “loving and inspired, they more strongly wanted to help and affiliate with others, and they were more likely to actually volunteer to work at a humanitarian charity organization afterwards,” according to Haidt.

Research published in the scientific journal, Biological Psychiatry, looked at the body’s response to witnessing the kindness of others. To do this, researchers measured the brain activity and heart rates of college students while they watched videos of heroic acts of kindness or humorous situations. Watching the kind acts caused a reaction in both the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system “that suggests both a fight-or-flight response and a calming, self-soothing response,” according to an article in Huffpost. “This may be because viewing a compassionate act requires us to witness suffering, which enacts a stress response…. Then, once we see the suffering alleviated through an act of kindness, our heart feels calmed.” This too, can cause moral elevation.

In addition to the feel-good reaction we get when witnessing kind acts, we can’t forget about what happens to our bodies when we act kind. Kindness reduces cortisol – the stress hormone – and increases endorphins, a natural painkiller. These are all incentives to keep up with kindness.

Kindness is contagious is so many ways and kindpoints not only allows you to track your own kind acts, but it also allows you to find inspiration – and moral elevation – in the kindness of others by connecting you with like-minded people in your community.

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