Motivation and emotion/Book/2015/Kindness and happiness
What effect does being kind to others have on one's happiness?
It's nice to be kind and it's nice to be on the receiving end of an act of kindness. It makes everyone feel better (Hamilton, 2010 p1)
This book chapter reflects on the idea of the types of affects on being kind to others will have on one's happiness. Kindness is a salient feeling alongside gratitude. The cognitive and physiological effects of kindness in the scope of finding awareness in ones' self and with others will be further discussed in the present chapter.
Kindness is a multidimensional construct extending into scope of helpful behaviours and personal, interpersonal, and the external nature in self-congruency acts of kindness amongst all persons’ . Humanistic behaviours that seemingly relate to kindness are compassion, gratitude (Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2009), forgiveness, congruency, delightfulness, joy and hope. The ideology of kindness that one carries and thinks upon ones’ self has supported the notion that being kind positively influences psychological and physiological wellbeing (Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2009). Certain acts of kindness are gratis, liberal, and thoughtful, thus meaning that kind actions could be achieved with only the prompt of subjective interpretation and a kind thought or a kind gesture and actioning that gesture or thought/s.
By actioning the kind thought or kind gesture, it is possible to reinforce another beings’ happiness, whilst simultaneously increasing the kind givers' happiness temporarily or longstanding depending on the action or gesture itself (Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2009). It is important to note, not all kind gestures and or kind thoughts will be well received, especially among strangers due to several possible differences, due to subjective interpretations in personal principles of kindness and morality may differ (Hookway, 2012; Pliskin, 2000). Nonetheless, if the gesture is well received through a major and or a minor act of kindness, the person performing the kind act is crediblein fostering positive emotions (Pliskin, 2000). In other words, exercising acts of kindness is not only being kind to others also it is an act of being kind to oneself (Pliskin, 2000).
Kindness is capable of causing a positive emotional response physiologically and or psychologically in whichever possible severity of responses (Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2009; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006). Imagine that you are overseas as a tourist in a capital city you have never travelled toobefore. You spend the day walking, consuming, and seeing what the city has to offer. Before returning to the hotel, you stop by a supermarket and purchase some groceries. When leaving the store, you vision a person on the ground surrounded by their belongings and resting. Beside the person, sits a sign with words of requesting in essential offerings such as food and water. You place down some fruits and treats alongside the person and continue your day. Assuming this example is an act of kindness, a change in the equilibrium of emotions, thoughts and or physiological responses, is probable in occurring optimistically (Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2009; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006).
The idea of kindness is subjectively felt and thought of uniquely throughout the world. With all persons’acts of kindness deriving from idiosyncratic differences in the subjective experiences felt experienced by other persons, this influence is subjected to constantly change (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006). Albeit, words verbally convey subjective notions of how one feels, thinks and reflects, projections in acts of kindness to another person/s and experiencing a form of happiness that was produced from the kind act, can only be explained with such words, leaving the joyful, delightful, contented feelings to be processed cognitively (Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2009; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006; Pliskin, 2000) Most individuals’ have the ability of reliving and remembering distinctive salient moments, letting it linger and or permanently store in someone's long-term memory (Loftus, 1991; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006). Kind actions and or kind words that are verbally or physically expressed, respectively, will forever be stated spatially and is subjected as a fact of life deriving from the organic performances of persons thoughts (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006). Whether the act is acknowledged by the giver or receiver, the ability that human beings are effortlessly capable in performing such a kind acts, in any measure of their understanding in kindness, is quite magnificent and splendour (Pliskin, 2000; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006;).
Gratitude; another thread of kindness
Gratitude magnifies the positives in life, and has a positive impact on well-being, interpersonal relationship, and prosocial behaviours' (Kerr, O'Donovan & Pepping, 2015 p 19). Gratitude is a multidimensional construct of emotional and cognitive abilities in expressing appreciation and acknowledging others' kindness and kind actions (Hlava & Elfers, 2014). Gratitude is an immensely salient tool for humans to behold in producing a deeper positive outlook on life by being optimally connected with others, and the meaning of life, their motivational drive, ability for empathy, and spirituality with faithfulness whilst building a resilience in coping during life’s organic adversities (e.g a death of a close one; Hlava & Elfers, 2014; Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2009; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky). Expressing actions of gratitude (Kerr, O'Donovan & Pepping, 2015; Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2009; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006) is perceived inassisting trust building and accepting relationships, encourages social bonding, whilst providing givers and receivers the benefits of positive social interaction and enabling helpers to use and developing on their personal skills in becoming their optimal self (Hlava & Elfers, 2014; Kerr, O'Donovan & Pepping, 2015; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006). The act of gratitude is an interactional experience and the meaning of gratitude derives from the “benefactor, beneficiary, and the nature of the benefit itself” (Hlava & Elfers, 2014, p. 436).
Humanistic psychologistHlava & Elfers (2014) conducted a study in attempt to expand the epistemology in gratitude and exploring participants remarkably lived experiences in which is subjectively correlating to individuals' notion of gratitude (Hlava & Elfers, 2014). In the present study, experimenters included a wide demographic range of participants differing in age and cultures to attain a wide range of physiological and emotional acts in the process of how consciously aware persons’ are when projecting the action of gratitude and the consciousness of feelings acknowledged in doing so (Hlava & Elfers, 2014). By using qualitative research, participants were asked to reflect mindfully in achieving an objectified level of self-awareness in which is associated to the regulation of emotions and participants’ exercised pro-social behaviours (Hlava & Elfers, 2014). The idea of reflecting was to gain optimal understanding of physiological responses of participants exercising the gratitude act, thus using qualitative research and reflective mindfulness is probable in eliciting the memories of their physiological and psychological responses (Hlava & Elfers, 2014). If participants felt profound connections (high intensity) within their interpersonal and intrinsic relationships, it is probable that high levels of somatic and emotional awareness of personal, interpersonal and transpersonal are gained (Hlava & Elfers, 2014) and will complement the individuals’ profound psychological and physiological understanding of gratitude awareness and self-awareness (Hlava & Elfers, 2014).
It is no surprise that the topic and study of happiness is a prominent field for research with discovering understood knowledge from studies that have been conducted by intellectuals, academics, researchers and everyone in between. The understanding in subjectively sustaining happiness and a healthy psychological lifestyle is understandably fundamental in most persons’ lives and as it is believed that happiness is thought of at least once a day by most persons'(Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2009; Rudd, Aaker & Norton, 2014). Researchers Rudd, Aaker & Norton (2011) performed a study on the notion of using prosocial behaviours which increases the balanced rate of persons’ happiness (Rudd, Aaker & Norton 2011). It is suggested that performing prosocial acts (smiling at a stranger; Rudd, Aaker & Norton 2011) is beneficial to the receiver as it is the giver (Rudd, Aaker & Norton, 2011). Furthermore, expressing a little act, a smile or a compliment to a friend or stranger may go a very long way for the receiver and the giver! So smile! It's good for your health.
Definition of happiness
The general assumption of happiness is usually a positive and or optimistic concept of emotion, however, there are many magnitudesto the notion of happiness. It derives from the substance of life experiences, feelings of life, and thoughts about life, towards a subjective thought of the quality in one's perceived existence (Otake et al, 2006).
Happiness within persons’ and relationships
According to Roberts (2009)emotions, thoughts and feelings must be exchanged in order to attain interpersonal relationships with ones’ self and with others (Roberts, 2009). The blossoming of interpersonal relationships unfolding happily and positively is optimally experienced with awareness, is the acknowledgement and understanding of emotions for each other’s well-being (Roberts, 2009). Examining the types of emotional awareness’ that foster strong positive relationships are “emotions of joy in the other’s successes, delight in the other’s presence, grief over the other’s pain and losses, indignation at injustices perpetrated against the friend, and felt awareness on the part of the friend of these emotions in the other” (Roberts, 2009 p 286). Thus, assuming the emotional states just mentioned are differing types in expressions of kindness, studies have evidently shown that performing acts of kindness allows persons’ to form profound positive relationships and meanings within individuals as well as strengthening personal and interpersonal relationships (Otake et al, 2006; Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2009).
Happiness is postulated to be a significant ingredient in positive psychology (Otake et al, 2006). The field of psychology is subjectively idealisedby the subjective experiences that people undergo from past to present and their notion of future experiences (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Positive psychology surrounds the subjective experiences (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) of the past, present and future ideology of the satisfaction within these three tenses (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi). The past subjective experiences (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) including the well-being of life and ones' physiological self, contentment of the life that has been lived and satisfaction of the inference in past experiences (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi). The present conception, focuses on the 'flow and happiness' (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000 p 5) of our current lifestyle, mentality and the physiological state of our current existence (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Furthermore, the subjective notion of the future lies in 'hope and optimism' (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p 5) of future possible events (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).
A question that is asked by Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi (2000) in relation to experiences is what creates a moment to be better than the next moment (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000)? Evidently, they claim that nurturing the positive and optimal life experiences, feelings and understandings a person has actioned is probable in allowing a stronger understanding of one's self and the capable kind acts that one can perform as well as the virtues that should remembered and acts as a reminder of the kindness that is embedded within persons' (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). More so, attempt to involve these thoughts with neutrality, meaning not to embed a superior or inferior ideology of the individuals’ acts of kindness (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).
Researchers in prevention psychology have associated that buffers such as optimism, hope, honesty and faith are possible components in the prevention of the onset in mental illnesses surrounding the subjects psychological state ((Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Thus, focusing on psychological positivities one has overcome, is a sign of how powerful psychological thoughts are and the healing properties it contains. Nonetheless, hedonic experiences that humans desire, depending on the severity of how essential this ingredient is to a person, has psychological healing properties or psychological terminating abilities (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). It is important for humans to take pleasure in the simplistic and gratis (latin for free) experiences, things and feelings one endures throughout a lifetime as most evidence shows that it is a major component in keeping happy and positive.
Ordinary and extraordinary experience study
What type of experiences would sound more appealing to the idea of fostering eternal and internal satisfaction of happiness? The thought of experiencing ordinary experiences in small increments or experiencing extraordinary experiences every so often? Experiences and moments are incredibly valuable and important to our everyday lives. Experiences define our self-conception (Bhattacharjee & Mogliner 2013), our outlook on life, and increases our awareness on the possible future events, and interjects persons' subjective happiness (Bhattacharjee & Mogliner 2013). Researchers Bhattacharjee & Mogliner (2013) define ordinary and extraordinary experiences as; ordinary experiences (Bhattacharjee & Mogliner 2013) as common experiences that are felt throughout everyday life and extraordinary experiences being those that are quite infrequent and are likely not to occur throughout everyday life (Bhattacharjee & Mogliner 2013).
Multiple studies were conducted by Bhattacharjee & Mogliner (2013) in attempt to discover whether ordinary or extraordinary experiences creates long-lasting happiness within persons' (Bhattacharjee & Mogliner, 2013). The experimenters asked participants, which type of experience has made them the most happiest as of recently, an ordinary experience or an extraordinary experience, relating this to the idea of purchasing material or experiential experiences and with the addition of age being sought after variable (Bhattacharjee & Mogliner 2013). Participants were put in either ordinary or extraordinary conditions, and they were asked to produce their latest memory of the experimental group they were participating in. Participants were asked on the level of importance of the experiences by indicating their ratings on a Likert scale (1=important - 7=not important; Bhattacharjee & Mogliner 2013) which experiential group they were in, as well as rating the happiness they had felt from past experiences with indicating how important that experience was (Bhattacharjee & Mogliner 2013).
Overall, the experiments' results suggest that participants focusing on the extraordinary experiences are probable in undergoing momentary happiness and participants placed in the ordinary conditions are likely to sustain happiness longer than extraordinary participants (Bhattacharjee & Mogliner, 2013). Furthermore, albeit extraordinary experiences are probable in boosting positive emotions of happiness for the moment, appreciating, contemplating and taking pleasure in experiencing ordinary experiences and moments is likely to sustain feelings of happiness that are longer-lasting than the emotional and somatic affects of extraordinary experiences (Bhattacharjee & Mogliner, 2013;Hlava & Elfers, 2014).
Spirituality versus kindness and happiness
Is it possible to believe that spiritual practices (for example, Buddhism) have a great credibility in the art of learning kindness and happiness due to it's many followers worldwide, predominantly with the principle belief of there is something more extravagantly larger than ourselves and in search of a persons' subjective meaning to the idea and thought of life itself. Sharon Salzberg (1995) has written a book based on kindness and happiness, providing the guide to creating joyful thoughts enforcing a secured sense of self-happiness and kindness, which is interpreted from her glorified experiences and a profound understanding of Buddhism (Salzberg, 1995). Based upon the Buddhist teachings she learnt and her lifestyle when living in India, she brings great insight of the ideology of what happiness, kindness and love is (Salzberg, 1995). Albeit, we are focusing on the optimistic ideology of thinking, feeling and living, there is likely to be a balance to these delightful thoughts, which are the contrary to these happy good feels, probable being the principle or concepts of subjective understandings in sadness and loneliness (Salzberg, 1995).
There is normalityin human beings to foster feelings of loneliness and sadness; this may be the reason as to why we may perform a decent act of kindness to oneself and with others with the intentions of not expecting things in return (Salzberg, 1995; Pliskin, 2000).
Salzberg (1995) contemplates on the thought principles of feeling loneliness or sorrow, what may help retrieve us from this negativity to in turn changing the mindset to positivity? Her subjective understanding of fostering optimistic thoughts through pessimistic experiences and thoughts is to perform the act of accepting and adopting spiritual conceptions (Salzberg, 1995). Thus, acknowledging and peacefully accepting fears, vulnerabilities, and pulling those possible unconscious thoughts into the conscious, instead of isolation, praise the possibility in doing so and attempt to uncover adverse emotions with a joyful outlook by disseminating acts of kindness within oneself and others Salzberg, 1995). Through Buddhist teachings, Salzberg (1995) has identified four common feelings and qualities, which are the most powerful positive states of consciousness being love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity (Salzberg, 1995). If these feelings hold the capabilities of being learned if unknown and practiced if never have been before, is that not enough to bring enlightenment to our own selves and more over to others? (Salzberg, 1995). In a spiritual sense, we are our own guides; we allow what thoughts and feelings to adopt as we are the controllers of our self-being if capable. There are environmental and genetic influences also, however, with acceptance and understandings of how we view the world, others, and ourselves living positively kind and happy is a possible and reachable path to follow.
Mindfulness is the practice of positive restoration attributing the psychological wellbeing and optimism of ones’ life (Keng, Smoski & Robins, 2011). To better understand the notion of mindfulness, speculating on the origins is essential. Mindfulness is applied to the western world, originally deriving from the eastern world as a segment of Buddhism (Keng, Smoski & Robins, 2011; Purser & Milillo, 2014).
The eastern philosophy of mindfulness hypothetically dates back as far as “1st century bc” (Purser & Milillo, 2014 p 4). The notion of mindfulness is to construct a positive discipline in “mental training and human development” (Purser & Milillo, 2014 p 4) with practising to eradicate the origins of detrimental sufferings by inducing significant optimistic subjective ideology in changing one’s cognitive and emotional mindset with aspiring in creating a permanent sustainability of consistently fostering the mindfulness mindset (Purser & Milillo, 2014). It is believed this development is possible with the implementation of meditation and introspection in identifying the root cause of organic distresses (Purser & Milillo, 2014; Keng, Smoski & Robins, 2011).
The emphasis of mindfulness meditation is the four sections relating in being mindful is “body, feelings, mind and mind-objects” (Purser & Milillo, 2014 p 5). Mindfulness is well received in the western world also and has become a therapeutic study for clinicians, counsellors and all persons in between (Purser & Milillo, 2014). In western cultures and societies, mindfulness has also been well received. Clinicians may also offer mindfulness theories and notions in overcoming psychological illness amongst western cultures, especially in overcoming stress and anxiousness (Purser & Milillo, 2014; Keng, Smoski & Robins, 2011). Other fruitful extensions of mindfulness therapies have also been conceptualised, the loving-kindness meditation theory also contemplates on the idea of positive thinking and conscious awareness (Hofmann, Grossman & Hinton, 2011).
Loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is a mindfulness-based form of meditation, which is being practised in the contemporary world (Hofmann, Grossman & Hinton, 2011). LKM continues to use the notion of non-judgmental ideologies for the present moment whilst focusing on forming a connectedness (Leppma, 2012) and compassion emotions intervening ones’ self and individuals’ (Hofmann, Grossman & Hinton, 2011; Leppma, 2012). As LKM does derive from mindfulness and Buddhism, acceptance, gratification and happiness with one self and others are a salient notion in understanding LKM (Leppma, 2012). With implementing LKM is the ability in generating the principles of “alleviating stress, boosting well-being, and improving interpersonal relationships” (Leppma, 2012 p 198). LKM, mindfulness and meditation have the ability of healing, attaining happiness and becoming consciously aware of present instants (Leppma, 2012).
Physiological effects of kindness and happiness
It is evident through research and studies on people practicing meditation have contributed in lessoningnegative effect physiologically through the immune and neuroendocrine systems (Pace et al, 2008). Three suggestions of the usefulness in meditation such as compassion theories, mindfulness based stress reduction have been supported in the possibility of reducing negative physiological effects of particular illnesses (Pace et al, 2008). Firstly, with the use of compassion meditation (Pace et al, 2008) and an EEG, Buddhist practitioners were able in discovering that compassion meditation enriched “positive emotionality and enhanced adaptive immune functioning” (Pace et al, 2008 p 88). Secondly, similarly, using compassion meditation training (Pace et al, 2008) has effects on stress related areas of the cerebral cortex such as anterior cingulate and amygdala (Lutz et al, 2008). Finally, practicing LKM positively increases the notion of individuals’ fostering self-compassion (Pace et al, 2008; Lutz et al, 2008), which reduces stress, depression and anxiety (Pace et al, 2008). Thus, it is possible to contemplate that meditation may actually reduce stress responses emotionally and physiologically, particularly the immune and neuroendocrine organic reaction to stress, however, it is believed that the duration of practicing is salient in the outcome of possible reductions (Pace et al, 2008).
Test your knowledge!
The idea of kindness and it's affect on happiness seemingly involves the process of finding profound consciousness awareness within ones' self, reflect, feel, process cognitively and emotionally. Through the works of meditation in mindfulness and LKM, teachings of being appreciative of the present moment and being grateful that you are fortunate of having the ability to still having moments. Kindness is merely a thought of a kind act or gesture, is capable of being applied freely with verbal or physical communication and is probable in being gratis and beneficial psychologically and physiologically. It is important to follow the wisdom of Ellen DeGeneres as she says when she signs off, be kind to one another!
- Spirituality (Wikipedia)
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