The Kindness Contagion
When you see someone doing a good deed for a stranger, do you get all warm and fuzzy inside and find yourself smiling? This is called moral elevation and it’s that awesome sensation that goes all the way from your toes to the top of your head when you are in the presence of nice people.
Spreading some love by buying a stranger a coffee or helping an elderly person across the road are ways of putting some sunshine into someone’s day. For some, this is already common knowledge but now it is officially scientific and yes, kindness is contagious!
Studies have shown that kindness is highly contagious and makes people want to spread the love almost in a domino effect and do acts of kindness after witnessing others doing it.
In a 2008 study conducted by the University of California San Diego and Harvard University found that cooperative behavior can spread from one person to another and even to multiple people by mimicry and emotional contagion to cause a ripple effect of happiness. People can literally catch kindness! Furthermore, you don’t even have to witness these acts of kindness first hand.
The study found that the kindness spread to at least three degrees of separation.
How amazing is it that one little act of kindness can cascade through a social network to affect the lives of dozens and even hundreds of other people?!
The researchers wanted to see what moral elevation actually looked like so they measured the brain activity and heart rates of 104 college students while they watched videos showing either heroic acts of kindness or humorous situations.
Amazingly, while viewing the heroic acts, the participants had an unusual combination akin to the fight or flight response paired with a self-soothing response as activity in both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system peaked. Interestingly, nothing happened in the brain while they were watching the humorous videos.
This may be because viewing a compassionate act requires us to witness suffering, which enacts a stress response and activates the sympathetic nervous system. Then, once we see the suffering alleviated through an act of kindness, our heart feels calmed and the parasympathetic nervous system is activated.
How to Spread Kindness
#1 Practice Compassion, Empathy and Love
Lay a foundation of compassion, love and empathy inside yourself, then even on days you may be feeling a bit blue, you can return to your foundations and find it within yourself to be kind to others.
#2 Be Committed
Be kind to yourself by committing that you will live the life that you always dreamed of, never give up! Use this commitment to also be kind to others.
#3 Be Present
Only by being present can we really hear what it is that others need. This can be anything from exercise to meditation to listening to music and brings us to that point of calm and stillness.
#4 Live a Life of Service
For those of us who have everything we need, it is good to be of service to the world and to give back. There are many ways we can help others so why not make it a priority to help one person each day?The profound feeling we experience when we observe the kindness of others leads us to become part of the chain of kindness. Our hearts can be touched and inspired at any time once we realize that kindness is everywhere.