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Reaching Out to Heal Within-Part I

It seems like every day, a new study tells us to sleep more, eat better, and exercise. All of these activities offer huge benefits to improving mental and physical wellness. However, sometimes, healing can come from what we do for others instead of what we do for ourselves.

Doing for others can be a significant source of personal satisfaction and fulfillment. Taking our focus away from our own experience and turning it to another, even for a moment, can have a wide range of effects on our sense of personal well-being. We can gain a different perspective on our own life situation by reflecting on another’s. Showing empathy increases our capacity for joy and can reduce the experience of stress. We can find reassurance and connection to others who are struggling.

The act of reaching out to and connecting with others in meaningful ways is something that we humans are designed to do. In this 3 part series, you’ll learn how focusing on others has the dual effect of increasing our own sense of well-being. First, we’ll see how acts of kindness lead us to experience greater life satisfaction. Then we will explore how we are impacted by our expressions of compassion and empathy. Finally, see will see how helping others helps us.

Acts of kindness

Being kind is different from being nice. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines nice as “pleasing, agreeable”. That sounds a lot like behaving in a certain way so as not to cause disruption or conflict. Being nice doesn’t require that you have a positive feeling towards a person. Rather, being nice is more about behaving a certain way in order to be viewed a certain way. Being “kind” is a whole different way of being. As Merriam-Webster puts it, “kind” is “of a sympathetic or helpful nature”. It is a way of being that comes from within. Being “kind” is focused and turns the focus to what another person needs.

Being kind is different from being nice.

Stories of “random acts of kindness” frequently grace the “human interest” segment of the nightly news. A man buys a load of groceries for the person struggling in line in front of him who looks like they could use a break. A woman buys a meal or clothing for the homeless person she passes each day as she enters her office for work. Showing kindness can be as simple asking a cashier how her day is going and as complex as forgiving the student loans of an entire graduating college class. The acts can be random, or well thought out ahead of time. What they all have in common is the focus on the needs of the other and bringing that show of kindness into that person’s life.

So how do acts of kindness change us? One study showed that acts of kindness over a 10-day period increased life satisfaction in study participants. What are some ways that you can show acts of kindness to those around you today?

  • Pay for the coffee order for the person behind you.

  • Ask the customer service agent how her day is going. (It’s more than likely she has spent the day being yelled at.)

  • Buy a smoothie for your child’s teacher.

  • Surprise a parent with a hand-written letter.

  • Offer to buy a co-worker lunch.

Kindness can be a turning point in someone’s day, and you’re are likely to get a boost from it too.


Buchanan K, Bardi A. Acts of kindness and acts of novelty affect life satisfaction

The Journal of social psychology, 2010

Photo credit

Javier Molina/Unsplash


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