by Braco Pobric

We like people who are kind to us. If we are kind, chances are we will be liked as well. Helping others and being kind is the morally right thing to do. Research shows that, in being kind, you not only help others, but also yourself—it improves your overall happiness level.

While writing in my daily journal, I focus on certain themes, one of which is unexpected kindnesses. These are nice things I do for others. I call it unexpected kindness because these acts are not expected by others.

Research conducted in 2004 by Sonja Lyubomirsky shows that increasing kindness (doing more than one would normally do) elevates happiness. In this study, she asked participants to perform five acts of kindness every week for six weeks.

Participants had the option of doing all six acts in one day or spreading them out throughout the week. These were generally described as things that would benefit others (i.e., writing a thank you note to a former professor, donating blood, helping a colleague, visiting relatives, etc.).

The participants who spread these acts throughout the week did not increase their happiness level. Why? As Lyubomirsky points out, many of these acts are small, and some people do them anyway on a daily basis, so spreading them through seven days may have made them indistinguishable from regular behavior.

On the other hand, the participants who decided to do these acts all in one day experienced a significant increase in happiness and well-being.

Acts of kindness make us feel good, more confident and in control. For me, such acts include giving up my seat on the train, letting other cars go in front of me, cutting flowers from the garden for my wife, helping out my neighbor, and so on.

Being intentionally kind puts me into a good mood, knowing I’ve put a smile on someone else’s face. I know that these small acts of kindness in my life have contributed to my overall level of happiness.

Treat yourself with unexpected kindness towards others and you will become even happier.

Think of the last time you did something nice and unexpected for someone. How did it make you feel? What is it about that act that makes you still remember it? Make a commitment to do even more.

Braco PobricBraco Pobric is an author, life and executive coach, speaker, educator, and founding member and Chief Happiness Officer of the Institute for Advanced Human Performance. He is a certified Positive Psychology Coach and former certified trainer and coach for Dale Carnegie Training. He currently holds a leadership role with a global financial company, and lives in New Jersey with his wife, Nevenka, and their cat Ringo. This article is excerpted from Braco’s book Habits and Happiness: How to Become Happier and Improve Your Wellbeing by Changing Your Habits.