A research team at Iowa State University led by Professor Douglas Gentile discovered the happiness secret. It has nothing to do with money or power or fame or anything else that people are always striving to gain. Actually, an ancient book had the secret all along.
The researchers divided a group of Iowa State students into four groups. Each group was told to look at people they saw as they walked around the campus. They told one group to wish others well and really mean it. The researchers called this “loving-kindness.” A second group was told to think about how they might be connected to the people they saw, such as sharing a class. This was called the “interconnectedness” group.
They instructed the third group to look at people and think about how much better off they are than the people they are looking at. This was the “downward social comparison” group. The idea was that seeing how much better off you are than someone else could make you feel happy. The fourth group was the control group. Their task was to walk around in the same way and just notice the outward appearance of people. They were supposed to look at things like clothing and accessories.
All of the students in each group were questioned before and after the 12-minute test to determine their happiness, stress, and anxiety. Can you guess which group had the most significant increase in happiness? It wasn’t the “downward social comparison” group. They came out on the bottom. The group that increased their happiness the most was those who practiced “loving-kindness.” The happiness secret is simple!
Whom do you suppose set the example for practicing loving-kindness? If you answered “Jesus Christ,” you are exactly right. Jesus not only felt love and compassion for those He met, but He also demonstrated it by His actions. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” He gave us the happiness secret!
Professor Gentile concluded, “Walking around and offering kindness to others in the world reduces anxiety and increases happiness and feelings of social connections…It’s a simple strategy that doesn’t take a lot of time that you can incorporate into your daily activities.”
I suggest that we begin to practice the happiness secret today!
— Roland Earnst © 2019
The research report has the long title, “Caring for Others Cares for the Self: An Experimental Test of Brief Downward Social Comparison, Loving-kindness, and Interconnectedness Contemplations.” It was published in the Journal of Happiness at THIS LINK.