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Liz Dueweke: Why kindness matters (it’s scientifically proven!)

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Maybe you can relate to this scenario: turn on the news or scroll through your Facebook feed, and you’re bombarded daily by negativity. Maybe you roll your eyes, sigh or shake your head.  Maybe you think, “man, people really need to start being nicer.”

I can tell you first hand, you’re not alone.

Between devastating news headlines around the world and vitriolic social media posts, lately, I feel physically and emotionally overwhelmed. Sometimes the amount of negativity makes me feel small and powerless. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering, what can I do? I’m just one person.  But it’s time to change that thinking, and it’s time to stop thinking someone else will change our world for us.  This is our world. It’s time for all of us to be the change.

That’s the point of the #OneKindThing campaign. Instead of wishing the world would change for the better, this is our chance to take charge and change it ourselves. For the month of August, I’m asking you to join me in doing one small random act of kindness every day.

Some people have asked why one act of kindness every day matters. Think of it this way: It matters because a beach is made up of millions of tiny grains of sand. It matters because one little wave crashes against another, starting a chain that continues for miles. Everything starts with one small push, as small as a grain of sand, and creates a wave of change that can build in our communities and in our own lives.

An act of kindness can be anything: Call your mother. Donate blood. Buy a stranger a coffee. Tell a policeman or firefighter you appreciate them. Give a friend or co-worker a meaningful compliment. Hug your kids. Volunteer at your favorite charity.

Then, post about these kind acts on social media with the hashtag #ONEKINDTHING, to inspire others to do the same, and keep the kindness going.

Scientifically and emotionally, kindness matters. There is proven science behind acts of kindness, benefiting the person committing it, the person receiving it, and beyond. In fact, one act of kindness rarely stands alone. Instead, it generates dozens of other acts of kindness.

A study a few years ago from UC San Diego found “cooperative behavior is contagious and spreads from person to person.“ Then, when people benefit from kindness they “pay it forward” by helping others who were not originally involved. The study says this behavior creates a wave of cooperation, influencing dozens more in a social network. The scientific term for this inspiring chain of kindness is actually called “upstream reciprocity.”

On top of doing good for others, there are personal benefits to kindness. Researcher’s refer to the warm fuzzy feeling we get from doing good as “a helper’s high.”  In one article from Psychology Today, “about half of participants in one study felt stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed with increased feelings of self-worth. This is probably a literal “high,” similar to a drug-induced high: for example, the act of making a financial donation triggers the reward center in our brains that is responsible for dopamine mediated euphoria.” If you need further proof that kindness is life-changing, Tech Times cited another study published in Clinical Psychological Science, where researchers found one of the best ways to help relieve stress is to simply help others.

In not-so-scientific words, we get back from the world what we put into it. We can’t continue putting negativity in the world and expecting positive change, just like we can’t put a bag of trash in an oven and expect to end up with chocolate chip cookies.

So, join me. Make the pledge to do #OneKindThing every day in the month of August. I guarantee even the smallest act of kindness matters, making waves throughout our lives and in our communities. Let’s be the change, instead of waiting for others to do it for us. In the words of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, “Why not us?” I guarantee one act of kindness will lead to another, and another and another. It’s scientifically proven!

Once you commit your act of kindness, inspire others on social media, by posting about your acts of kindness with the hashtag #OneKindThing. Let’s flood our world with waves of positive change.

Read about others’ acts of kindness here!