Can doing something kind for others make you feel happier?
In a study by Lyubomirsky, Tkach & Sheldon (2004) students were asked to perform five acts of kindness each week, for a period of six weeks. The type of acts included things like visiting an elderly relative, donating blood, helping a friend with a paper, writing a thankyou note etc. Students completed measures of well-being before and after the six week period.
The results showed that the well-being of the students increased following the intervention….however, the researchers found that the timing of the acts of kindness was crucial…..only the students who did all of their acts of kindness in a single day each week showed increased well-being, not the students who spread their generosity over the entire week!!
So why is this!? A reason may be that because many of the kind acts performed by the students were small ones, spreading them out over a whole week may have decreased their power, or made them harder to distinguish from day-to-day habitual kind behaviours.
This fits in with another study by Baumester, Vohs, Aasker & Garbinsky (2013) which outlined that helping others is not correlated with happiness, but that people who help others have higher levels of meaning in their lives than people who don’t help others.
What does this mean? Helping others is related to higher levels of meaning in our lives and can help our well-being, but several small acts of kindness over one day are more likely to achieve this!!
Would you do a weekly “kindness” day? How might you do it? I would love to hear your ideas!!