There's A Link Between Being Kind To Others And Happiness, UBC Researcher Says

November 15, 2021

Being kind toward others may be key to our own happiness, a psychology expert says.

being kind to others makes you happier
Credit: UNBC Random Acts Of Kindness Club / @unbc_rak

Studies have shown a "causal link where, when people behave in this generous, kind way, they actually end up happier themselves," says Elizabeth Dunn, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

"Frankly, I find it very reassuring that humans have this sort of baked-in tendency to experience joy from helping others," she told the CBC on Friday.

Dunn said her happiness research is conducted by "changing the conditions that people are facing" and seeing the results.

In one experiment, researchers walked up to randomly selected people on UBC's campus, gave them either a $5 or $20 bill, and asked them to spend the money by the end of the day.

Half were told to spend the cash to benefit someone else and the other half were asked to use the money to benefit themselves.

"At the end of the day, [the subjects] don't really know what the experiment is about. We just asked them about their day and asked them to rate how happy they felt," Dunn said.

"What we saw in that experiment is that people felt happier after using this money to benefit others than after using it to benefit themselves."

Dunn said the study suggests that treating others with kindness is more effective for promoting our own happiness than treating ourselves.

However, she says being kind to ourselves is very important, too.

"The form of kindness that is perhaps most beneficial for ourselves is really all about self-compassion ... that same sort of gentle compassion that we would extend to a treasured friend or maybe a younger person in our life that we care about."

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