New research from the University of British Columbia has found that children who perform small acts of kindness tend to boost their own happiness, and that may help counteract bullying.
Some 400 Vancouver elementary schoolchildren were asked to report on their happiness after four weeks of participating in one of two scenarios, according to the study published Wednesday in the online publication PLOS ONE.
One group of the nine to 11-year-olds were asked by their teachers to perform acts of kindness, such as sharing their lunch or giving their mom a hug if she appeared stressed.
The other group was asked to keep track of pleasant places they visited, such as the playground or a grandparent's house.
While both groups reported a boost in happiness, the children who were kind said they wanted to work with a higher number of classmates on school activities.
Professor Kimberly Schonert-Reichl says those findings mean it's likely teachers can create a sense of connectedness in the classroom simply by asking students to think about how they can act kindly to others — and that that can reduce bullying.
"We show that kindness has some real benefits for the personal happiness of children, but also for the classroom community," said Schonert-Reichl, a professor in UBC's faculty of education.
The research was conducted in partnership with the University of California, Riverside.