You better get yourself together, darlin’, because the human race has been scientifically proven to respond to acts of kindness, according to a recent report from researchers at Toronto’s York University.
With more than 700 participants, the Canadian study documented the psychological and emotional effects of playing nicely with others. In short doses over the course of a week, subjects were requested to act compassionately towards another individual for five to 15 minutes a day, actively supporting this person in a considerate manner.
Participants reported a boost in overall happiness and self-esteem, which continued several months after the study concluded.
“People look at the work I do, for example, and think it takes a ‘special’ person,” Podeszwa explains to CultureMap. “Honestly, it really doesn’t. I actually get more out of what I do than what I put into it.”
This type of psychological research, often called Positive Psychology, highlights a new direction in the field that uses the scientific method to determine how aspects of our brain chemistry function to make life more fulfilling. Positive psychology seeks not to undermine traditional psychology, but rather to enhance it by offering different approaches to treating mental illness.
Kurt Podeszwa, director of Camp for All — an outdoor program for people with disabilities near Brenham — debuted a concept he dubbed “selfish selflessness” at last June’s Houston TEDx. “People look at the work I do, for example, and think it takes a ‘special’ person,” Podeszwa explains to CultureMap. “Honestly, it really doesn’t. I actually get more out of what I do than what I put into it.”
“It’s not a tangible benefit, per se, but rather a feeling,” he said. “That’s what keeps you wanting to do things to help others. It’s really more selfish than you’d realize. In a way, I think it’s what we’re meant to do. It’s how we’re designed.”
Harvard researcher and happiness guru Shawn Achor has made a career out of positive psychology, offering courses and lectures on how the field can be applied to the workplace. As workers, people are reared to chase success first, he contends, forcing happiness into the shadows.
“Happiness fuels success, not the other way around,” he writes in The Happiness Advantage. “When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work.”