Finding: The science of kindness

August 19, 2014

Researchers at the Stanford School of Business have found a magic bullet for personal happiness — and it’s not what you might think. 

A happy “helper’s high” is what you get when you do good for others, says Jennifer Aaker, whose experiments on the phenomenon are published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. So, if you’re feeling blue, try performing five random acts a day for six weeks. It’s been shown to increase increase happiness — as does volunteer work, and spending money on others instead of yourself.

To maximize impact and your helper’s high, the trick is to make your goals specific. A concrete goal is more achievable, and the standards for success are more clearly defined. For example, aim to increase recycling in your home vs. to save the environment. Or, aim to do one concrete thing a day to improve the life of another (as Dr. Aaker’s mother encouraged her to do in childhood) vs. to make the world a better place.

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