Little Actions Can Bring You Joy

Research shows small acts of kindness can influence your mood.

Giving a  stranger a hug is an act of kindness.

(Erin Alexis Randolph /

Being kind not only helps the person in need but it can actually help yourself too. That’s because being selfless  and kind is linked to happiness and contentment both physically and spiritually, according to Phycology Today. That’s because acts of kindness, no matter how small, can help reduce stress, anxiety, boost your immune system, and improve your wellbeing.

In today’s super stressful world, with global conflicts and divisiveness, it’s difficult to take time to care for yourself, let alone others. That’s why little actions or micro-moments of kindness can go a long way.

The Big Joy Project
The Big Joy Project began in 2021 as a collaboration with filmmakers who made a documentary called Mission Joy which  spread The message that people could control their own happiness, reported NPR. This stemmed from the story of the friendship of the Dali lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and their teachings that said that people could feel joy even in the midst of suffering and could use those feelings to do good.

“Rather than thinking of joy as something that happens to you, it may make sense to think of it as a skill that you can get better at through practice’ Emiliana Simon-Thomas, a Big Joy project leader and science director of the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California Berkeley, told NPR.

The Big Joy research project is part of a collaboration between GGSC and other institutions. While it didn’t begin as a  typical research study, it is ongoing and open to anyone who wants to participate. To date, there have been over 70,000 participants from over 200 countries.

The participants all had to take an online survey to answer questions about their emotions, stress, and wellbeing. Then every day, they had to engage in a small acts of kindness like visiting a senior neighbor, or paying for a cup of coffee for someone they didn’t know.  Afterwards they had to take a survey to gauge how they felt  before and after.

The project  has a “citizen science” goal to analyze which of these small acts benefited people the most by using the data collected from this diverse group of participants.

The results of the project
An analysis of the project was released on November 11, 2023 and the results are very promising. “we’re really excited,” Simon-Thomas said; “There are statistically significant, measurable changes [that include] greater wellbeing, better coping, less stress, [and] more satisfaction with relationships.”

In fact, according to the results published on GGSC, emotional wellbeing increases 26 percent, positive emotions 23 percent, 27 percent felt more empowered to be happy, and an impressive 30 percent of people said that their relationships improved.  While this was not part of the study, 12 percent of the participants recorded that their sleep improved after completing the project.

While these results are very encouraging, the participants who were all volunteers and t did not receive anything for taking part in the project may have simply been invested in the topic and may not have  changed due to performing the acts of kindness. That cannot be answered at this time but one thing is assured. Kindness is contagious and doing one act of kindness leads to other acts of kindness and that truly will increase joy in the world.

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