This is another tip from the world of resilience research. If ever you find yourself feeling sad, stressed or perhaps even oppressed a good way of tackling these feelings is to undertake “random acts of kindness”, even to total strangers.
It is very natural when the weight of the world is on our shoulders to withdraw within ourselves and to do only things which seem to serve our own purposes. It seems that responding in the opposite way can be very powerful in increasing our levels of well-being. Human beings seem to be hardwired to be kind to each other just as we also seem to be hardwired to be beastly to each other from time to time. There are strong research findings (eg Anik et al, 2009) that we can gain enduring increases in our levels of well-being through acts of generosity and kindness.
This approach seems to work because:
- Generosity reinforces our own sense of power – how can we be powerless if we can do something generous for somebody else?
- Generosity builds social networks. There is infinite research evidence that strong social networks increase our levels of well-being and resilience. Doing generous things for others increases our levels of human contact.
- Generosity gives us a purpose. When people first undertake generous acts some of them find the activity somewhat addictive.
- Generosity puts things in perspective. It gives us a chance to stand back from our own situation and to reflect with more balance on our lives.
When I work with work groups that consider themselves somehow to be powerless or oppressed one of the things that I like to do first is to encourage them to do something generous, ideally for their oppressors. I confess that they often consider me to be insane when I suggest this, but it is amazing how often they consider their situation in a totally new light after they have gone through with it.
Strange, isn’t it. Doing something entirely selfless can prove to be very self enhancing. To learn more about this and more resilience building techniques please join me for our resilience masterclass. Click here to find out more.
Anik, L., Aknin, L. B., Norton, M. I., & Dunn, E. W. (2009). Feeling good about giving: The benefits (and costs) of self-interested charitable behavior.