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Why Being Kind Helps You, Too—Especially Now

Summary:
Research links kindness to a wealth of physical and emotional benefits. And it’s an excellent coping skill for the Covid-19 era By Elizabeth Bernstein of The WSJ.Adam Smith said when people act selfishly they are led, as if by an invisible hand, to make society better off. So what if you try to help others because you know it will make you better off? Are being kind (altruistic) or selfish?One researcher says "Our attention isn’t something that is infinitely expansive." It like saying you only have a certain amount of money to spend so spend it wisely, where it will help you the most.Excerpts from the article:"Research links kindness to a wealth of physical and emotional benefits. Studies show that when people are kind, they have lower levels of stress hormones and their

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Research links kindness to a wealth of physical and emotional benefits. And it’s an excellent coping skill for the Covid-19 era

By Elizabeth Bernstein of The WSJ.

Adam Smith said when people act selfishly they are led, as if by an invisible hand, to make society better off. So what if you try to help others because you know it will make you better off? Are being kind (altruistic) or selfish?

One researcher says "Our attention isn’t something that is infinitely expansive." It like saying you only have a certain amount of money to spend so spend it wisely, where it will help you the most.

Excerpts from the article:

"Research links kindness to a wealth of physical and emotional benefits. Studies show that when people are kind, they have lower levels of stress hormones and their fight-or-flight response calms down. They’re less depressed, less lonely and happier. They have better cardiovascular health and live longer. They may be physically stronger. They’re more popular. And a soon-to-be published study found that they may even be considered better looking."

"it diminishes our negative thoughts. “Our attention isn’t something that is infinitely expansive,” says Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. “What we are feeling at any given moment is related to what we are doing, so if we are behaving kindly, that experience will occupy our emotion.”"

"“The key to our success is not the survival of the fittest,” says Jamil Zaki, a neuroscientist and associate psychology professor at Stanford. “It’s survival of the friendliest.”"

"people born with the personality trait of empathy. Yet, nature accounts for just half of our propensity to be kind, says Dr. Zaki."

"“Kindness is a skill we can strengthen, much as we would build a muscle,” says Dr. Zaki"

"When we’re kind, a part of the reward system called the nucleus accumbens activates—our brain responds the same way it would if we ate a piece of chocolate cake. In addition, when we see the response of the recipient of our kindness—when the person thanks us or smiles back—our brain releases oxytocin, the feel-good bonding hormone. This oxytocin boost makes the pleasure of the experience more lasting."

"If you want to reap the personal benefits, “you need to be sincere,” says Sara Konrath, a psychologist and associate professor at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy"

"people who believed that kindness is good for them showed a greater increase in positive emotions, satisfaction with life and feelings of connection with others—as well as a greater decrease in negative emotions—than those who did not."

Adam Smith wrote a book called The Theory of Moral Sentiments. One point he made there was that we are able to sympathize with other people by trying imagine what they are going through (and I wonder if we need to be good storytellers to be able to do that). Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has been studying how the hormone oxytocin plays a role in making us feel good when we have empathy for others (beware: Zak is a big hugger). See an earlier post Adam Smith vs. Bart Simpson for more details.

There is an interesting book called Paleopoetics: The Evolution of the Preliterate Imagination. It relates storytelling to evolution.

Click here to go the Amazon listing. It is by Christopher Collins, professor emeritus of English at New York University. Here is the description:

"Christopher Collins introduces an exciting new field of research traversing evolutionary biology, anthropology, archaeology, cognitive psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, and literary study. Paleopoetics maps the selective processes that originally shaped the human genus millions of years ago and prepared the human brain to play, imagine, empathize, and engage in fictive thought as mediated by language. A manifestation of the "cognitive turn" in the humanities, Paleopoetics calls for a broader, more integrated interpretation of the reading experience, one that restores our connection to the ancient methods of thought production still resonating within us.

Speaking with authority on the scientific aspects of cognitive poetics, Collins proposes reading literature using cognitive skills that predate language and writing. These include the brain's capacity to perceive the visible world, store its images, and retrieve them later to form simulated mental events. Long before humans could share stories through speech, they perceived, remembered, and imagined their own inner narratives. Drawing on a wide range of evidence, Collins builds an evolutionary bridge between humans' development of sensorimotor skills and their achievement of linguistic cognition, bringing current scientific perspective to such issues as the structure of narrative, the distinction between metaphor and metonymy, the relation of rhetoric to poetics, the relevance of performance theory to reading, the difference between orality and writing, and the nature of play and imagination."

Click here to read a longer description by Collins himself.

Here is the new article from this week The Dalai Lama Explains Why Being Kind to Others is the Secret to Happiness. Excerpt:

"Have you ever wondered why it matters that you care for other people?

It seems commonsense that this is a good way to live life. But there are dominant philosophies today that suggest we need to maximize our own individual self-interest.

This comes from economic theories of capitalism that suggest when people look after their own self-interest, then society is better off.

The Dalai Lama explains why this doesn’t make sense in the beautiful passage below. As he says, it’s an obvious fact that your own sense of wellbeing can be provided through your relationships with others. So it’s best to start cultivating practices of kindness and compassion."

Then the article has a long statement from the Dalai Lama on this philosophy. But some economists might say that you can't run a successful business if you don't care about others and try to learn their wants and desires. Here is what Adam Smith said in The Wealth of Nations
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages”

Related Posts:

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Adam Smith vs. Bart Simpson 

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Want to be happy and successful? Try compassion

The Dalai Lama Says It Is Sometimes OK To Be Selfish

People sometimes pay for for goods even when they don't have to.

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