Make kindness your Valentine gift
On the way to finding something fun to share about Valentine’s day, I kept bumping into articles about kindness. Not exactly a new hearts day idea, however, last year kindness stories soared to the forefront in videos and online posts and kept are spirits alive during very trying times. We collectively cheered for folks performing heartwarming acts of kindness for others. Repeatedly we saw how one person’s kindness activated responses from an army of folks who added their efforts to help the cause. So what’s behind the art of kindness?
The science of kindness is backed up with plenty of research to support its beneficial claims. In September 2019, UCLA launched the Bedari Kindness Institute with a $20 million gift from the namesake’s Foundation. Described as a world-class kindness research center, the vision is to create opportunities that translate the research into real-world practices and to serve as a global platform to educate and communicate their findings. Amazing that studies are conducted by an array of anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and neurobiologists.
Biologists have also researched how the brain is wired to reinforce and reward kind-hearted actions with “feel-good” sensations. When people are kind to another person, both feel uplifted creating a positive link between the two. Scientists believe that universal kindness connects us to each other. Even the simplest things like volunteering or holding the door open for someone produces the good feelings and makes us feel connected.
Kindness research has even found its way into traffic jam studies. When there is a collision requiring multiple lanes to merge into one, transportation specialists estimate a 25% improvement in getting past the accident if people take turns merging, and “behave better.” In other words, connecting through the kindness of courtesy gets people on their way faster. That makes sense.
With February 14th just around the corner, acts of kindness are a perfect way to celebrate. Make it a marathon “feel good” day by reaching out to others—by phone, email, or social media posts. Keeping your brain happy is as simple as texting heart memes to others or writing a good old-fashioned letter, adding a few decorations, and popping it in the mail. No-cost love notes can be written on decorated index cards and dropped off on neighbors’ doorsteps. Doesn’t matter if you know them or not. Remember secret pals?
Hearts day celebrations can be whatever you make of them. We’ve seen so many creative acts of kindness this past year. Let’s keep the positive feelings going. Think that’s the best Valentine gift we can give.
Originally published in Orange County Register, February 11, 2021