What do food, sex and altruistic acts have in common? They all light up the same pleasure centers in the brain. I’m not gonna lie, dark chocolate or a romantic encounter with my honey sounds much more enjoyable than giving up my seat on the airport shuttle — something I’ve been known to do in my frequent travels as a motivational speaker.
But who am I to argue with science? Along with those guilty pleasures, practicing kindness, in ways small and large, makes us feel good. Donating blood, helping a colleague complete a project, or feeding a stranger’s parking meter all qualify as kind acts that can increase our own sense of well-being. Studies have found that people who perform different acts of kindness throughout the week showed greater increases in happiness than those who performed the same activity repeatedly. In other words, the activities shouldn’t feel burdensome or obligatory. So stop being a regular and get random!
Besides being kind, there are a number of other things you can do to improve your overall sense of well-being. I’ve touched on a few of those in my recent post motivational speaker says c'mon get happy. I’d like to offer a final suggestion. Fair warning, this is trickier to implement and requires some thoughtful effort on your part. But the rewards in increased positivity are worth it.
1) Stop spiraling. You know that thing we do where we dwell on our problems and start spinning out of control, often at 3 in the morning or when we’re stuck in traffic? Stop it. Don’t dwell. As soon as an unproductive, negative thought tries to intrude, consciously derail it. Ask yourself, “What can I do to change the situation right now?” If there isn’t any action to take, shift your thinking to a go-to positive thought. I always picture my teenage daughters as two and three year old's laughing while playing tickle monster. Instant joy. Remember, your mind can only hold one thought at a time and you always get to choose.
Feel free to share below acts of kindness that you’ve experienced and how they affected you.