Happy to Help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor

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Do acts of kindness improve the well-being of the actor? Recent advances in the behavioural sciences have provided a number of explanations of human social, cooperative and altruistic behaviour. These theories predict that people will be ‘happy to help’ family, friends, community members, spouses, and even strangers under some conditions. Here we conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of the experimental evidence that kindness interventions (for example, performing ‘random acts of kindness’) boost subjective well-being. Our initial search of the literature identified 489 articles; of which 24 (27 studies) met the inclusion criteria (total N=4,045). These 27 studies, some of which included multiple control conditions and dependent measures, yielded 52 effect sizes. Multi-level modelling revealed that the overall effect of kindness on the well-being of the actor is small-to-medium (δ = 0.28). The effect was not moderated by sex, age, type of participant, intervention, control condition or outcome measure. There was no indication of publication bias. We discuss the limitations of the current literature, and recommend that future research test more specific theories of kindness: taking kindness-specific individual differences into account; distinguishing between the effects of kindness to specific categories of people; and considering a wider range of proximal and distal outcomes. Such research will advance our understanding of the causes and consequences of kindness, and help practitioners to maximise the effectiveness of kindness interventions to improve well-being.

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... For example, acts of kindness, practicing gratitude, and spirituality are widely considered important for psychological health; however, in this study, these actions were not found to be as important as those relevant to the 5 factors. This lack of findings is broadly consistent with the results of empirical studies [53][54][55][56][57][58][59]. ...
... For example, in a systematic review and meta-analysis of 27 experimental studies examining the relationships between acts of kindness and different measures of subjective well-being, including measures of psychological health, Curry et al [53] found the overall effect of kindness to be small to medium (δ=0.28); however, they noted that most of the reviewed studies were underpowered to detect small differences. ...
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Due to the multi-factorial nature of the self-report of happiness, an enhancement program was designed that focused on mental style (subjective processes), and relationships, work, money, health, and leisure (objective life domains). An examination of interventions revealed mindfulness training (subjective factors) and goal setting (objective factors) as effective change modalities. To address this, the Mindfulness-based Quality of Life and Well-being Program (MQW) was developed and evaluated against the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale, Quality of Life Index, Personal Wellbeing Index–Adult, Positive and Negative Affect Scale, the Satisfaction with Life scale, and the newly developed Clinical Quality of Life Scale (CLINQOL). To explore training protocol effects, the program was delivered in a graduated (6 weekly sessions x 2 hours) and intensive (2 consecutive days x 6 hours) format. Using a randomized trial, participants were allocated across these conditions and a control. A total of 191 participants completed the study and were assessed at pre, post and follow up time points. Increases in mindfulness, quality of life, subjective well-being, and positive and negative affect (not life satisfaction), were greater in treated (combined formats) than control participants at post-test, and for mindfulness at follow up. Other than an increase in mindfulness for the 2 day condition at follow up, changes were similar in both intervention formats. Finally, to investigate what unique difference the MQW might have in comparison to teaching just mindfulness, the full version of the program was compared to an expanded section of the mindfulness component of the program. A total of 74 subjects began the program and filled out assessments across the three time periods. There was no difference between groups or an interaction between group and time. Overall, the findings provide preliminary evidence that a multi-dimensional training approach, using mindfulness and goal setting, may be a beneficial intervention model to enhance subjective and objective components in the perception of quality of life and well-being. However, further investigation into its added benefit to mindfulness alone is required.
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Este estudo investiga os impactos da gentileza nas empresas. Os conceitos e tipos de gentilezas são mostrados no referencial teórico bem como a importância da gentileza, inclusive no meio organizacional assim como as formas de estimular e disseminar a sua prática. A pesquisa empírica, realizada por meio de um questionário respondido por cem pessoas e de uma entrevista dirigida, evidencia a importância e o impacto da gentileza. Assim, os resultados serão discutidos e comparados com a teoria, destacando os reflexos do uso da gentileza, principalmente nas empresas. Palavras-chave: Gentileza, bem-estar, produtividade, gestão, pessoas.
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