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A Selfish Case for Kindness

Whenever we think of acts of kindness, we generally assume they make the lives of others easier or better in some way. Complimenting someone’s clothes or helping an elderly neighbor with some housework can be a welcome improvement to their day. Far less often do we wonder: how does this affect you – the one that is extending kindness?

The Study

That is why an amazing recent study set out to explore the effects of kindness on our mental health. For the study, people that experienced medium levels of depression or anxiety were monitored and randomly assigned to one of three groups over the course of 5 weeks:

  • One group was asked to perform 3 random acts of kindness on 2 days of the week, 
  • The second group was asked to plan a social activity on 2 days of the week,
  • The last group was asked to maintain a ‘thoughts diary’ for 2 days of the week to identify and challenge distressing thoughts (a proven and weathered cognitive behavioral therapy technique)

Before the experiment, during every week, and 5 weeks after the experiment, participants filled out a range of questionnaires about how they were feeling.

The Results

Afterwards, all 3 groups reported being less depressed and anxious, had lower negative feelings, and felt more satisfied with life. But surprisingly, the group that performed acts of kindness reported greater reductions in both anxiety and depression, as well as higher life satisfaction. And, while the kindness-group and the social activities-group both boosted people’s perception of social support, the increase was the biggest from acts of kindness, with benefits lasting up to 5 weeks.

The Advice

Studies like this show that kindness really is a win-win activity, something that provides brands with an opportunity to do real good if they could find a creative way to stimulate random acts of kindness. And personally, it also offers some inspiring

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Author

Douwe Knijff

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Kim Pillen

Consultant

Before Kim Pillen started as a trend consultant at TrendsActive, she worked for four years as a creative strategist at Dept. For brands such as Philips, bol.com, Beiersdorf, JBL, and the Consumers’ Association, she built (online) campaign, brand, and social media strategies. After four years, she decided that she wanted to better understand people and society in order to advise brands more effectively. That’s how she ended up at TrendsActive. Here, she can do what she loves most: digging into people’s needs and then working with brands to see how and where they can be relevant and meaningful.

Douwe Knijff

Researcher

Douwe is fascinated by how people work. With a background in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences (Bachelor) and Psychology (Master) and an analytical mind he tries figure out how societal shifts manifest themselves through social culture and human behaviour.

Aljan De Boer

Keynote speaker

Aljan has been widely recognized as an inspiring professional speaker on the critical trends that will shape society in the decades to come. He works as the Head of Inspiration at TrendsActive, a trend consultancy from the Netherlands using social science to human-proof business decision for brands like

  • Disney
  • Vodafone
  • Hugo Boss
  • ASR
  • Rabobank

Next to his role at TrendsActive he is the Community Director at the Institute for Real Growth where he inspires and connects a global community of +400 CMOs.  

He has been on the board of the Dutch Platform of Innovative Marketing for almost a decade. Regular speaker and moderator for the Dutch Marketing Awards and 3 times winner of the best of MIE. 

Kees Elands

Founder & Strategist

Kees his purpose is to help ambitious leaders and brands to human-proof their business. In 2003 he founded TrendsActive, a trend consultancy enabling brands to become more human centric.

Kees consults global brands like

  • Disney
  • The Coca-Cola Company
  • Asics
  • Discovery Channel
  • Swiss Life
  • Vodafone

and many more.

Next to being the founder of TrendsActive, he is also initiator of the first academic trend master for executives at the University of Utrecht and is initiator of various trend studies and white papers on subjects like trust, meaning, visual culture & generations.

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Kees Elands

Founder & Strategist

Kees Elands

Founder & Strategist