409: Kindness

A Thousand Things to Talk About
409: Kindness

Who do you remember for being the kindest to you?

Show notes and links:
Scientific American

Full episode script

Season 7, episode 12 of Doctor Who – in the midst of a very emotional episode – includes Dr. Who deciding to do something very dangerous and very illogical in the name of saving some of his friends. When asked why, he responds that Vastra, Jenny, and Strax were worth the risk because when he had been in his “dark times” they had been very non-judgemental and kind to him when they had no reason to be.

In Shawn Anchor’s TED talk from 2011, he lays out the basics of the idea of positive psychology, and includes in that talk his research that if you choose to do something positive — including a random act of kindness for someone else — for just 21 days, you can train your brain to actually see or consider kindness and positivity first. This creates more dopamine in our brains, which tends to help us lean more towards happiness, yes, but it also creates an environment where it is easier to adapt to changing circumstances.

And those acts of kindness have an impact not only on the brain of the person doing the act, but the person at the receiving end of the acts of kindness. In Scientific American, Jamil Zaki wrote about the so-called Kindness Contagion.

“Like other scientists, we found that participants who believed others were generous became more generous themselves. We then tested our real question: does kindness contagion transcend mere imitation? In a follow up study, people observed others donating generously or stingily, and then completed what they thought was an unrelated “pen pal” task. They read a note in which another person described the ups and downs of his last month, and wrote back. People who had watched others donate generously wrote friendlier, more empathic, and more supportive notes than those who had watched others behave greedily. This suggests that kindness evolves as it diffuses, “infecting” behaviors through which new individual can express it.”

In other words, though it can be easy to forget that it is the case, kindness has an impact — even if it is one that we often cannot see. So who has impacted your life in a positive way? And how has it impacted you?

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.