On Stress & Kindness

Over in New Haven, there is a doctor named Emily Ansell. She's an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale's School of Medicine. And she's really interested in stress and how we reduce it.

So she ran a study with 77 people and their smartphones. Every evening for two weeks, these 77 folks got two prompts on their phone. One prompt: report all the stressful things from the day - computer went bananas, left lunch on kitchen table, bad news from the doctor's office.

The other prompt: report any small acts of kindness they did - let a car go in front of them during rush hour, gave tourists directions, helped a family carry their stroller up a busted escalator.

Dr. Ansell and her colleagues ran the numbers. They analyzed the data. They did what researchers do. And from all that, the doctor in New Haven found something simple and enchanting. Kindness to those around us helps reduce the stress we've got in us.

Not big, whomping, once-in-a-lifetime benevolent acts. But small and plain gestures of compassion - holding an elevator door or paying the toll for the car behind you, telling the cashier's manager the cashier is really super or letting someone go ahead of you at the coffee shop.

Will it make stress vanish? Nope. It's a bit like putting the sprinkler on dry grass. It doesn't make the rain come. But, as the good doctor in New Haven found, it sure helps.

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