What if instead of spreading viruses to each other we could spread something else? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if instead of passing on diseases and hardships we could circulate kindness?
This idea of a kinder world inspired researchers to delve deep into the psychology of kindness. Their studies have concluded that kindness is, in fact, contagious. This discovery is a basis of new hope for our world today. With the heightened climate of prejudice and hate, it is our time now to begin a campaign of kindness that can affect positive change worldwide.
Pay It Forward
What is the kindest thing someone has done for you? Catherine Ryan Hyde explores this concept in her award winning novel, Pay It Forward. Her writing follows the story of a young boy who embarks on a journey of discovery after he is given a social studies assignment where he was challenged to change the world for the better. His ingenuity leads him to create a network of good deeds he calls Pay It Forward. This system calls people to perform three kind acts for someone else and have each of those people do three kind acts and so on. This circulation of good deeds that began as an assignment becomes a national movement of kindness.
The research behind this book led Catherine Hyde to connect with researchers and scientists to create the documentary called Kindness is Contagious, where they explore the idea that kindness can be spread between all of us. Much like a virus, they conclude, kindness passes from person to person, leaving behind a web of good deeds. We spread it through our kind actions until we have all been affected by the good feeling it leaves inside of us. We are easily inspired by others' kind actions and often act in a way that reflects the good intentions of our peers. Movements such as the free hug campaign, take advantage of the contagious nature of kindness by reaching out to people in an effort to inspire kindness in each stranger whose life is touched. Others choose to express their activistic tendencies by joining organizations such as the RAKtivists, whose mission is to spread kindness in everyday life.
The ideas behind the pay it forward movement are not simply stories confined to to the pages of a book; instead the impact of this phenomenon has taken our own world by storm. Pay it forward has become a global movement in our own world. Stories have surfaced of people performing acts of kindness for others. From paying a stranger's car payment to donating kidneys to simply offering someone a ride, the effect is slowly being spread around us. In our day and age full of distractions and ruthless ambition, kindness has fallen low on our lists of priorities; however, we forget how easy it is to spread kind acts around us. By opening the door for someone or picking up the bill of the person behind you at the drive through, kindness can begin to be spread again.
Six Degrees of Separation
In our world today, it is easy to get caught up in the provoking news stories and forget the impact that we, as individuals, have on the world. Extending kindness to someone can create a chain reaction that has the potential to span the globe. A psychologist named Stanley Milgram coined the phrase six degrees of separation, the idea that we are all separated by only six people. Stanley proved this in what is known as the small-world experiment, where he gave a letter to a stranger across the U.S. and asked them to use their connections to deliver the letter back to him. Every person who helped the letter return to its owner wrote their name on the name roster inside the envelope. Stanley repeated this experiment and found that on average the letter took 6 people to reach its destination.
How Does This Apply To You?
This information puts into context that the world is smaller than it first appears. We are all capable of touching the lives of so many more people than we think we can. This research into the contagion of kindness is proof that all of us can make a difference. Try to implement the pay it forward phenomenon into your life today. By spreading kindness to just a few people you are becoming their source of inspiration to spread kindness to others. In a world that is filled with hate and judgement, making small steps to be kind is a way that you can impact positive change in the world.
Being kind to others doesn’t have to be hard. In fact there are many simple ways to share kindness with others. Be creative in your own life and reach out to those you care about. Everyone can use a little extra love, especially in the cultural climate we live in today. To get you inspired, here is a list of random acts of kindness:
Going forward, practice going out of your way to be kind. Your actions have the ability to create a global phenomenon that brings kindness to a network of people. Even something small has the power to effect positive change in the world around you.
‘Kindness is choosing love over hate, light over darkness, compassion over judgement.’
Click here to learn about joining the community of Random Acts of Kindness activists.