Wagging Tails with Hachi: Kindness Changes the World
Did you notice how eagerly Hachi waited for Professor Parker (Richard Gere) in the film “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”? And, at their evening reunions. the professor always responded with an enthusiastic, “Hachi”!
In the same way, our pups get crazy excited when you come in the door! Even just the sight of you makes them bust into a happy dance. When you start putting out their meal or get their leash out for a walk, it’s the same response. Their tail begins a furious wiggle-waggle! For our furry friends, tail wagging is a sign of appreciation and gratitude. Translation: “thank you for being there and being my friend”.
As a bonus, it’s a sign that another act of kindness is sure to come. Such as in the form of a paw, a wet nose, kisses or just an ear ready to listen.
Our dogs show kindness each and every day simply by being by our side.
Kindness Compels Reciprocity – It’s Powerful
Think of the last time you were on the receiving end of a kind act. How did it make you feel? Chances are, it made you want to do nice for someone, too. When driving through to pick up a coffee, if you hear that the person in front of you paid for your coffee. You’re more likely to feel compelled to do the same for the person behind you.
According to James Fowler, a professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, the name for this need to reciprocate an act of kindness is “upstream reciprocity”. Essentially, it’s the domino effect of good deeds.
Your brain doesn’t differentiate between doing a good deed and being the recipient of a good deed. In both cases, the reward centers of your brain light up in the same way – and with the same intensity. Our dogs are a great example of this: It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing something nice for them or if they’re doing something for you – they’re happy either way.
So, if you want to increase your overall happiness, being kind to others might just be the best way to get there. In fact, a 2010 Harvard Business School surveyed 136 countries about happiness. The result was that, overall, those who were altruistic also rated as the happiest.
Be Hachi. Be Happy. Right Now!
Our dogs are wonderful examples for how to live a better, more fulfilling, and HAPPIER life. They don’t live by constraints or limiting beliefs. They KNOW there is enough of affection to go around, and they’re happy to show it each and every day. The more we can embrace the giving nature of our Hachi friends, the better our world will be… for everyone.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor of Psychology at Stanford, tested whether asking people to “commit” five random acts of kindness would increase their level of positive emotion (Lyubomirsky et al, 2004). The answer is a resounding yes! Moreover, it’s most effective when all five acts are carried out in one day — preferably one day each week. (“Kindness and the case for altruism”, Ben Dean Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania)
We can all think of ways to show kindness to another person. I can think of a few, right now — feed someone’s parking meter, call a friend who you’ve been meaning to (but haven’t), walk an elderly neighbor’s dog or open the door for someone who’s got hands full of grocery bags. These acts can be for different people, the person may (or may not) be aware of your action, and the acts may vary or be the same.
The important thing is to DO it!
5 Ways to Add Joy to Your Life
1. Go visit your local animal shelter. Ask what they may need. Offer to walk a dog or if they need any specific items. I once saw a poster asking for towels. So, I called up a local wholesaler and donated dozens for very little cost.
2. Ask a clearly harassed salesperson or waiter how their day has been going. I once did this with a shoes saleswomen. She started tearing up. Although she didn’t divulge any details, the woman clearly was touched. And, her demeanor completely changed.
3. When someone admires something you have, and you can afford to do without it, give it to them.
4. Send some flowers just to say “I’m thinking of you”. My mother’s pastor was in a retirement home. For Easter, she sent a bright floral arrangement. The note thanked him for his kind words through the years. Everyday he called to thank her for the “glorious flowers”! On the fourth day, she learned that he had passed away peacefully during the night. She’s forever grateful for those last precious calls…
5. One day each week, “commit” to five anonymous acts of kindness. Start small. Bet you’ll be doing it even more often!
So, the next time you are considering whether you should or shouldn’t do something nice for someone else. remember this:
Being kind makes you feel good. If you want proof, just look at that wagging tail on your dog!
Can you recall a kindness that stuck with you through the years? It may have been simply a few words of encouragement, a compliment or a loving gesture when you most needed it. Compassion can change your (the) world. One step at a time…