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Study Finds Small Acts of Kindness Can Bolster Students’ Health and Wellness

A little act of kindness can go a long way, the researchers say, in bolstering the health and well-being of students.

Dr. John-Tyler Binfet and Dr. Sally Stewart of the University of British Columbia recently published a study exploring how including a kindness assignment in an undergraduate course affected students’ perceptions of themselves, their peers. and its campus.

While there have been several studies that have evaluated the effects of kindness on well-being, there has been limited research on how college students understand and act on kindness, says Dr. Binfet.

Thousands of college students returned to classes in Canada in September, and Dr. Binfet notes that while living in the days of COVID-19, every act of kindness is very helpful.

“We know that being kind produces a number of wellness benefits, such as reduced stress, happiness, and acceptance of peers, and we know that mental health affects learning,” says Dr. Binfet.

“The post-secondary setting is often the last boot camp in preparing students for life, so we want to understand how we can prepare students for optimal mental health as adults.”

For the study, student volunteers provided self-reports to determine how friendly they see themselves in online and face-to-face interactions, and how connected they feel to their peers and the campus. The students were then asked to plan and complete five kind acts during a week.

Participants completed 353 kind acts with the main themes of helping others, giving, showing appreciation, and communicating. Students who completed at least three of the five self-planned acts of kindness reported significantly higher scores for in-person kindness and connection with their peers.

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“This research can help students realize that there is evidence behind how and why people are kind, and that kindness impacts health and well-being,” says Dr. Stewart. “It also has an incredible impact for teaching in higher education as it provides insight into where students are with their practice and understanding of goodness in order to lay the groundwork for the inclusion of this topic within practices. educational and content areas of the course “.

While there are on-campus wellness resources available to students in most postsecondary schools, this research shows that by including wellness initiatives in course work, it is easier for more students to participate in those activities and receive benefits without extra effort. The study also showed that a curriculum-based kindness intervention would be well received by students.

“We found that the students loved the homework,” says Dr. Stewart of the study, published in Journal of Continuing and Higher Education. “For some, it helped them realize that kindness is a skill they can learn to improve and that there are many ways to be kind. For others, it helped them realize that they already do nice things. It reinforced his desire and intention to do more kind deeds. “

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For years, Dr. Binfet’s research has focused on elevating the discussion about kindness, and he has previously completed studies on how children and adolescents perceive and act out kindness.

“With this research, we now see alignment in how college students and school-age participants define kindness; For them, it means actions that can improve the lives of others. Often times, it’s simple things like being courteous and helping others, ”says Dr. Binfet.

Source: University of British Columbia.

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