Research indicates that we are at our happiest when we connect with other people. Even the introverts who like spending time alone mulling things over and shy away from social occasions are happier when they connect with somebody. The connection, of course, does not always have to be in person, it can be in one's mind, over the phone, in doing something to please another without them being there. But in a social context it would benefit an introvert to pretend to be an extrovert just until they initiated contact with a few people who they might then connect with on a more genuine level.
ACTS OF KINDNESS
To extent oneself beyond one's own concerns and make an effort to make life easy, pleasant or at least bearable for another is what makes the world go around. If nobody put themselves out for anyone most people would die of starvation if not of food then of human connection. Children in orphanages who have not been offered a human connection show no interest in getting out of bed and participating in life. We all need persons in our lives who encourage us on our way. Children who have not been nurtured by positive connections do not fair well in life and in society often ending up with addictions, mental health problems or in crime as adults as they have not developed a sense of respect and care for another person because they did not experience much care themselves.
A number of troubled children change through consistently experiecing someone who gives them them one-to-one special time where they are 'held' in a safe space where they can decide what is to happen, which game to play, what to talk about or simply just to sit. Through another person's respectful and caring eyes and behaviour the child learns to trust not only the other person but more importantly their own self. However, it is not only troubled children who need special time and respect, most people need an experience of unconditional love in order to know what it is and the happiness it can bring.
COUNTING ACTS OF KINDNESS
Some research has been done regarding our awareness of our own kindness. It seems that happiness increases when we become aware of the kind acts that we perform. This is not necessarily because we think we are a good person but more to do with an awareness of the positive connection we are making with another human being. This links up with the practice of gratitude which has been shown to be one of the most powerful means of enhancing our well-being and zest for life.
AN EMOTIONAL SURVIVAL TECHNIQUE?
There is a group of parents of children who have died, who on behalf of their child perform an act of kindness towards someone each day. This practice offers a meaning to a parent's life who otherwise might spend years buried in sorrow and incomprehension. At least someone is benefiting from what otherwise might seem a cruel fate.
THE CONNECTIONS IN OUR BRAIN
The availabity of brain scanning has made it possible to observe how the brain reacts to specific thoughts and emotions. One of the recent discoveries is that the brain has a physical centre for positive and negative emotions. In David Hamilton's book 'Why kindness is good for you' he explains how the practice and experience of kindness produces feel-good hormones in the brain such as dopamine and oxytocin while negative thinking and experiences produce cortisol, a stress related hormone which can damage our body if we are not careful how we process negative experiences.
KINDNESS IS CONTAGEOUS
An act, yes even a thought of kindness is like a stone thrown into a pond: it creates a ripples effect, kindness 'blesses he who gives and it blesses he who receives'.