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Session 2: Random Acts of Kindness

The word ‘kindness’ had already been floated around before we all came into tonight’s meeting: being mentioned quite a lot in relation to the idea of gratitude. We jumped straight into it this week: dividing into groups to put together an image of what a happy person might look like. One of the symbols used in all three images was the heart; often associated with the idea of love. There was a general mutual agreement that kind people were generally loving and welcoming.

One of the ideas that struck me most, however, was the image of a human face made up of fragments of different kinds of people: to show that anyone can be kind. Kindness is not represented by someone’s appearance, rather it is determined by how they behave. Perhaps that should go without saying, but the image represented that anybody can be kind. Conversely, someone suggested later on that actually kind people have an attractive quality about them: they’re instantly noticeable and tend to “fill up the room.” I would agree with this myself: you can usually see if you’re talking to a kind person based on their body language and behaviour. In fact, another thing the images all had in common was that the people in them were all smiling: reinforcing the idea that the kinder you are, the happier you tend to be.

A debate we had later concerned the possibility that we could have inherited kindness from animals as we evolved from them. Something that struck me in relation to this was the clip of Roger Bretherton’s interview, in which he stated that even parents looking after their children as they grow up is kindness. I found this interesting, because many animals take care of their young until they’re old enough to fend for themselves: in many cases animals are parts of groups- herds, prides, schools, etc.

Does this mean that all animals can be kind to a certain extent? Would this be because without the ‘kindness’ it takes to raise young, certain species couldn’t survive? This had me wondering personally if kindness is hardwired into most species of animal (in many cases because without it, survival for the species would not be possible). Perhaps some animals just find it easier than others to show that kindness.

Overall, the session was very interesting, with so much discussion that we were still talking intently until the very end, and that included five minutes over time. So far, ‘The Happiness Lab’ course is proving to be very successful in getting people to think. The only question that remains is: will it indeed raise our levels of happiness?