Feb 14, 2020

Interview Transcript

Practice random acts of kindness. So, let's say someone ahead of you paid for you and you pay for the guy behind you, you're not really getting anything for free because you're buying the other one, but you've just increased the total happiness quotient significantly with that act.

More and more we're seeing people who go through the drive-through at McDonald's or Wendy's or at a coffee shop and say I'll pay for the guy behind me because the guy behind has already put in their order and so you know how much they're buying and it's not usually very much. There even are situations where people have been paying it forward at a rate of maybe 10, or 15, or 20, or 30 cars, pay for the next guy.

So, you got yours paid for and you say well I'll pay for the next guy and the highest number string was in Manitoba, 228 consecutive cars paid for the lunch or breakfast for the guy behind them.

Well, what's this all about? I think there's some very good evidence that random acts of kindness make you feel better. In the list of activities that make people feel better and make them feel better all day and maybe even all week; generosity or giving something to a stranger makes people feel better.

The drive-through has some significant advantages. Number one: You don't have to meet the guy that you just gave a freebie to. Number two: they're not asking for drugs or for something to buy drugs or for alcohol. You're just buying them their breakfast or a cup of coffee. So, if you went through, and this happened to me, actually about a month ago I was going through getting a small lunch at a drive-through and the guy said, "You know, the guy in front of you paid for you." And I went, "Okay, I'll pay for the guy behind me." And I thought all day what a gift it was that the guy in front of me was being kind to me and I hope the guy behind me had a better day.

We all know about negative psychology which is one of the characteristics of people who are depressed. What are the characteristics of people who are anxious? Well, more and more the Journal of Happiness Studies is looking at the psychology of people who are happy. This is particularly important for women because I think women know this. Number one: Count your blessings. Actually doing some kind of program of counting your blessings everyday makes people feel better.

So, they randomized people to counting their blessings versus counting the red lights you get stuck at and low and behold people who count their blessings six months later feel better. Be specific, so you need to say what five things are you most grateful for?

Two, manage your mental health. So, you know when you're negative and you know when you're grumpy and you need to change the channel. Change the radio station and get on to a happier or calmer radio station.

The Women's Health Initiative looked at women who entered the study with a positive frame of mind. Now, these are women who didn't have cancer and they weren't sick, and they were 45 to 75. And women who were high on an optimism score when they entered the study compared to women who were high on a cynicism score; nothing's going to come out right, everything's going to be bad, etcetera. Five years later the women who were optimistic had less heart disease and they had less cancer.

Let's talk about those behaviors. Number one: Count your blessings, Number two: Thank a mentor. And it doesn't mean send them an email. It means write them a letter on real paper with a real pen and if you can, deliver it in person. Once again, people who've done that particular act, thinking about doing it, doing it, and having done it, make people feel better for longer. Three: Practice acts of kindness.

Helping a stranger, whether it's something that you just pack up your clothes and take them to the DI or whatever or paying for their lunch or breakfast from the guy behind you in the drive-through, those kinds of things not only make you feel better thinking about it, but it makes the person behind you think about doing it for someone else.

There are behaviors that can improve your mood and improving your mood improves your well-being, decreases your blood pressure. It helps decrease your risk of heart disease and there's some evidence that cancer as well has a lower rate in people who are optimistic.

So, next time you go through to get your coffee, think about what it might mean to you and the person behind you to pick up the tab for them.

updated: February 14, 2020
originally published: December 13, 2013

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