There's not much I've really planned for the next decade, but I've decided to be "nicer" - no horrible weather, nightmares or stress with the pubescent kids will serve as an excuse for my drooping mouth corners in the future: I will train myself to be "nice". I still remember well that it used to be frowned upon to be called nice. "Nice" was synonymous with irrelevant - not exactly a predicate in the age of individualists, where it was important to leave clear character traces with the first impression on a person. For better or worse, I have certainly practiced this extensively in the past and rarely put my foot in my mouth, did not greet acquaintances properly or did not thank them enough with small gestures of kindness. Most of the time it is written on my face whether the flag is only at half-mast today and I am tired and weary of submitting to my moods or personal sensitivities. And even if there are at times certainly a thousand reasons why I should feel bad, this is very relative and there is no reason to get on my fellow man's nerves with it. But why the sudden change of heart? The initial spark was my recent trip to Rio and the unbroken joy of life of the Brazilians; their friendly composure - even if the world around them is collapsing. This will to always face life in a happy and positive way and to dance away all worries and hormone surges with Samba impressed me.
Recent studies have shown that "being nice" changes our brain. Especially effective are so-called "Acts of Kindness" - random gestures of kindness without asking for anything in return. For example, scouting tasks such as helping an elderly lady carry heavy groceries, helping mothers carry their prams, or letting people with little shopping in the supermarket pay for their neighbor’s coffee at the checkout. Just like that. According to a recently published study by the University of Berkeley, a majority of participants reported having more energy after helping others or being nice, although a different reaction was expected. "Killing with kindness" has always been a good way to take the wind out of the sails of ill-tempered opponents. We just have to want it. But can we really train niceness like a muscle that has simply become lame over the years? Shouldn't "niceness" be anchored in character and come from the heart? A friend recently told me and my children with a wink: "Politeness and good manners are more important than a good character". We stared at him in disbelief and naturally asked for an explanation. This was promptly answered with a counter-question: What do I get out of your great character if you are otherwise inattentive or ignorant of your environment? That was quite the argument and I realized that a good character does not necessarily go hand in hand with friendliness and good behavior. Therefore yes, we can train friendliness and "being nice" and with luck it has a positive effect on our character.
According to the Berkeley study, kindness reduces suffering, makes us happy, optimistic, and morally positive. It is said to improve our self-image and make us shine. A Harvard study proved that people who do good - for example, donating money or getting involved in social activities - are happier than others. They would have less worry, pain and panic attacks and apparently even less depression. In an experiment conducted by the University of British Columbia, a group of people with severe social anxieties were supposed to do a little something for others once a day. Donate a few Euros, hold doors open and so on. The participants were already drastically more positive after 4 weeks, avoidance behavior decreased - the binding hormone oxytocin was formed in the brain and the stress hormone cortisol decreased by a whole 23 percent.
So we can say that the friendliness is very friendly to us.
Surely it can be argued whether this trained "new kindness" is not exclusively an end in itself, i.e. promotes self-optimization. But very few people are altruists and have innate warmth of heart.
The more regularly we practice niceness, the more our brain restructures itself accordingly (thanks to the lifelong changeability of nerve tracts).
The good news is that each of us can demonstrably train niceness and kindness like a muscle.
My grandma once told me: treat every person the way you would like to be treated. Today I find myself leading my children in that as well. And another old saying tells a lot about friendly cooperation: "As it sounds in the forest - so it sounds out again". I have probably had this confirmed a few million times in my life and I am always amazed at myself how difficult it is to discard negative patterns. But if it were as easy as putting on a new sweater, the world would be a better place - a paradise and no longer a utopia. Researcher Dr. David R. Hamilton writes in his book "The Five Side Effects Of Random Kindness" that kindness and "being nice" trigger a domino effect and transfer to other people and they themselves act nicer. So in principle we can change the world in a big (good) way with small gestures. If this isn’t motivation to get up tomorrow with different eyes and just be nice.
Here's to a nice (new decade) and a lot of exchange about it - here on SoSUE.