Altruism Truism

>> Monday

In an article entitled If It Feels Good to Be Good, It Might Be Only Natural, the author says we've got it all wrong. Being kind or generous or altruistic isn't something painful or difficult or something that requires you to force yourself to be unselfish. We've gotten the wrong impression because our parents made us share our toys and religions tell us to love our enemies.

Being kind and generous and altruistic is natural and pleasurable, and the effort people have spent persuading us to be good to others has turned something enjoyable into a chore.

You don't have to be stuck with that point of view, however. What you can do instead is focus on the rewards, the pleasure, the happiness, and the good feelings that your acts of kindness can give you. In other words, you can look at opportunities to be generous or giving or altruistic as moments of happiness you could be enjoying. You can stop looking at them as something you "should" do.

People are basically good. I know there are sociopaths in the world, and they may not be good in any sense of the word. But normal, healthy people, however they may be behaving at the moment, have within them a built-in reward system that gives them pleasure when they perform acts of kindness, random or otherwise, for their fellow humans (or other animals).

How can this help you raise your mood? Simple. If you've been thinking you "should" be kind to others, and you make yourself do it (or feel guilty for not doing it) you can give all that up. Change the way you think about it. Remind yourself that kindness toward others is a source of happiness for you. You don't have to do it. You "shouldn't" do it. But if you want to feel good, you'll definitely want to do it.

This change in your perspective will make your acts of kindness more enjoyable for you, and encourage you to do more, which will make you feel good more often. And oddly enough, the recipient of your kindness will be happier too. Think about it. Would you rather someone did something for you because they enjoyed it or because they felt they should?

Change your perspective about helping others, and everyone wins.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.

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