Research has found that spreading small acts of kindness can help reduce anxiety . Researchers believe that pleasantries can also bring more happiness and create a sense of social belonging.
The scientists counted on the participation of university students who walked for about 12 minutes in the college environment. The university students were divided into four groups and encouraged to think differently:
- Group 1 – “loving kindness”: they were motivated to look at the people they met and wish them happiness. In some cases, these desires have been manifested aloud;
- Group 2- “interconnection”: they were motivated to look at people and think about how we are connected to each other. The students were instructed to think that they may have dreams, desires and hopes similar to those of the people they were seeing;
- Group 3 – “descending social comparison”: they were motivated to look around and compare (stronger, more beautiful, more intelligent) themselves with the people they were watching;
- Group 4 – “outside”: they were motivated to look at people and observe the clothes, hairstyles, makeup, color combinations, accessories and tattoos.
All students passed tests before and after the experiment to measure levels of anxiety, happiness, sadness, stress and empathy.
The results showed that students who practiced the loving-kindness technique were happier and less stressed at the end of the study.
The second group of students (using the interconnection technique) were more empathic at the end of the twelve minutes.
Both groups 3 and 4 (comparison and exterior) did not show positive results regarding the levels of emotions. On the contrary, group 3 was more depressed and anxious at the end of the research. Scientists believe this is because the comparison is linked to the envy, disappointment and anger that hinder well-being.
The researchers were surprised to find that the loving-kindness technique helps to control anxiety and sadness in any type of personality.
The research was done at the University of Iowa, United States and published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.