What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?

A movie title from a million years ago, 1968 to be exact. The plot was about people who are infected with a virus transmitted by a toucan become nice and positive to each other. A pandemic of pleasantness. Obviously, a fantasy comedy.

We all want to feel good, even those who use misery as their morphine. The pharmaceutical, counseling, physical fitness, liquor, health food and spiritual industries are profitable because people want to feel good, in whatever form it is applied.

When this silly film was released 53 years ago, think about all the turmoil of the times. The year 1968 was a year the country, generations, sexes, races, politics and economic classes were split like a series of social fault lines. Race riots, the Tet Offensive, the the violence at the Democratic Convention, the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy represented a country coming apart at the seams.

So, why not feel good? Not high or stoned, but upbeat and kind. Being nice to someone needs a drug?

That movie reminds me of the pandemic of 2019-2021, although COVID-19 spread death and permanent physiological damage. It also spread economic recession, political division, fear, conspiracy and anti-freedom confrontation.

Sadly, most everything in America today is divisive. That’s what really reminds me of 1968. The country was at war with itself, just like now. Make love, not war. What kind of a commie statement is that? When threatened or in doubt, pull out the communist, socialist or liberal labels. Same as 53 years ago.

Kindness, rather than selfishness, is human collateral, the seeds of which is stronger than a virus. Are we in agreement that kindness should be our priority? Not so fast. If kindness was a widely agreed upon virtue, our society would not be so fragmented, hostile toward other differing opinions and we would treat others with more positive behavior. Humans have the ability to think, have a conscience, feel emotion, learn and regulate our own behavior. We have the ability to feel love, but also the ability to feel hate. Sorry, this is not a blog on human psychology or politics.

To me, in times of problems and tragedy, our go-to emotional response should be kindness and compassion. As I have often written, self awareness and humility are strengths, not weaknesses of character or emotional naivety. One way to look at kindness is as a power, an internal resource. Maybe it does not qualify as a superpower, but do not underestimate its strength.

So, what is the relationship between kindness and feeling good?

According to one study, Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia researchers found:

“The practical implications of this positive feedback loop could be that engaging in one kind deed (e.g., taking your mom to lunch) would make you happier, and the happier you feel, the more likely you are to do another kind act,” says Lara Aknin, a graduate student in psychology at the University of British Columbia and the study’s lead author.

Shoba Sreenivasan, Ph.D., and Linda E. Weinberger, Ph.D., in an article in Psychology Today wrote: “…kindness can promote gratitude. You are kind to others in need; having that awareness then heightens the sense of your own good fortune. Kindness promotes empathy and compassion; which in turn, leads to a sense of interconnectedness with others.”

According to a Cedars-Sinai blog: “Dr. IsHak says studies have also linked random acts of kindness to releasing dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain that can give us a feeling of euphoria. This feel-good brain chemical is credited with causing what’s known as a ‘helper’s high.’ In addition to boosting oxytocin and dopamine, being kind can also increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood.”

Even without case studies, we instinctively know that kindness is linked to feeling good. It not only bring out positive reactions in others, it’s warm glow is reflected back on the giver. Show kindness, not hate.

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