Today will likely be one of celebration for some and despondency for others.

But why not spend some time doing something assiduously nonpolitical? Why not try simply being kind? The benefits are many and cascade through society, the latest research tells us.

That’s according to the Washington Post, which late last month ran a column about the psychology of kindness. According to Melanie Rudd, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Houston, doing something nice for someone else produces a feeling known as a “helper’s high.”

Rudd calls that feeling “impure altruism,” meaning that we don’t just do good things for the sake of doing good things. We also do them because doing good makes us feel good. And if that leads to an overflowing abundance of kindness, where’s the harm in that?

Jamil Zaki, an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University, has researched how kindness can actually spread from person to person.

“We find that people imitate not only the particulars of positive actions, but also the spirit underlying them,” he wrote in 2016. “This implies that ... kindness itself is contagious, and that ... it can cascade across people, taking on new forms along the way.”

Zaki’s research shows that we’re more generous when we believe that other people are being generous, too. And even though we might not be able to match our friends’ financial assistance to a cause, their help might still inspire us to do good in other ways.

Kindness, then, doesn’t stop with a single person. It starts with that person and, if we’re tuned in, spreads throughout society like some kind of virtuous virus.

Today, let’s all commit to being kind. Let’s try to do at least one unambiguously good thing for someone else before the end of this week. Try to find whether your friends are contributing to some greater cause and join them. Or set off on your own.

You don’t need to be rich. You don’t even need to be particularly virtuous. What you do need is to care about others and want a society that lifts up everyone. Victory alone can’t be our sole goal. It waxes and wanes, comes and goes. But our communities remain.

We should care instead about creating the kind of world in which we all want to live.

 

GateHouse Kansas