Quick survey: What was the last act of kindness you did for someone? Did it make you feel happy? Did it make you feel… popular?
A new study of 400 pre-teens found that among the participants, students who did kind deeds not only felt happier, but they were also shown to be favored among their classmates. The students studied were made up of 9-12 year olds who were put in two groups. The first kept track of “happy places” that they went, and the second group was asked to do kind deeds.
Four weeks later, both groups of students were asked not only about their own happiness, but what students they would want to work with at school. Individuals from both groups reported that they felt happier, but those in the second group were also more often chosen as desired class partners by their fellow participants.
I’ve said before that I think the word “popular” gets a bad rap. I see nothing wrong with being well-liked among your peers for creating a more positive experience for others. So often in movies, popularity is associated solely with wealth or power, so its kind of reassuring to see people responding to attributes like kindness.
Now granted, I don’t think popularity should be a motivating factor in your decision to do something nice, and I think that’s why anonymous acts of kindness really speak volumes. I think what speaks to me regarding “popularity” is more of the idea that when kindness is done, others respect that quality and want to be a part of the environment created — like wanting to work with those students on classwork. It could feel good though to know that your good deeds are drawing others in to be a part of that positivity. These researchers hope that this kind of continued kind behavior could curb bullying in schools, especially since they say it tends to start around the age of the study participants.
Now, I know this group that was part of the study probably younger than most of you, but I think there is still something inspiring that we can all take away from this, no matter what age we are. In the recent weeks, people have responded to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School by participating in the #26Acts campaign that was sparked by NBC News correspondent Ann Curry. The idea is simple — undertake acts of kindness in memory of those killed at Sandy Hook. Buzzfeed compiled a collection of some people’s kind acts and I will admit that I cried as I was reading it.
I know for me, I don’t do nearly enough acts of kindness. Yeah I’ll show my general manners and cast a smile, but I’m talking about doing something that maybe inconveniences me just a little bit, but the knowledge that it’ll make someone else happy outweighs it. I’ve shared how happy it has made me to give back, but I won’t lie and act like it’s not something I could do more. I know many make jokes around this time of year about New Year’s resolutions falling through and all that, but with something as simple as acts of kindness, I think that’s something everyone — whether kids, pre-teens, teens or adults — could try to do a little bit more in 2013.
What sorts of acts of kindness do you do on a regular basis (or would like to do in the future)? How do you feel after completing a kind act? Do you think that niceness has an effect on popularity? Let us know in the comments!