The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, throws some attitude at you in the store, or berates you for your political views, your gut reaction may be to throw the anger right back in their face. It doesn’t take much thought, and some say it’s an easy way out. However, the feelings inside your body are much more complicated and could have lifelong effects. Just as with anger, kindness can be contagious. Physical reactions stemming from kindness are easier on your blood pressure.
Fortunately, there’s a new program at UCLA that can help communities focus on mindfulness to bring more peace. Professors in the field of social sciences at UCLA’s Bedari Kindness Institute will research kind gestures and create real-world opportunities that can empower citizens to build more humane societies.
“Our vision is that we will all live in a world where humanity discovers and practices the kindness that exists in all of us,” said Matthew Harris, co-founder of the Bedari Kindness Institute and UCLA alumni.
As politics and violence deepen the divide among people, the university’s new program will take a collaborative approach to understanding kindness. Professors will research actions, thoughts, feelings, and social interactions to educate communities about kindness.
“The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute will bring the best thinking to this vital issue and, I think, will allow us to have a real social impact on future generations,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.
Mastering the art of kindness requires a hard work ethic and can improve your physical and mental health. Strong feelings of negativity can do a number on your body. They can wear on internal organs and cause depression and anxiety. Learning the practice of mindfulness is a good start to a healthier you and a healthier community. Making a conscious effort to think maybe that person who cut you off is rushing to a sick child, or the grocery store employee is having a bad day. If you’re a few clicks to the left, a few clicks to the right or somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum, take your opponent with the beef out to lunch (that’s the better kind of beef anyway). Flash that person who’s not happy with you a genuine smile. Doing so will not only help your mental health, your kindness will spread from person to person, according to scientists.
“Much research is needed to understand why kindness can be so scarce in the modern world,” said Harris who, along with his wife Jennifer, donated $20 million to launch the institute.
As the old adage goes, you can catch more bees with honey than vinegar.
If you are interested in seeing a mental health professional, you can check their license to make sure it is valid by visiting the California Board of Psychology or the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.