Science Proves Kindness is Contagious

I’ve been trying to become a person of purpose. I want to know why I’m doing the things I’m doing.

I take a shower because I went running and I stink. I brush my teeth because I ate garlic and my family is shunning me. I put that cookie in my mouth because I’m hungry. Or I’m bored. Or I’m tired. Or I’m worried.

There are a million little decisions I make and actions I take every day. Some of them I think about, and some I just do because it’s what I’ve always done.

I’m starting to think about all of those little actions. Why do I do what I do? Why do I choose to be kind? It feels good, which is the basic reason, but I keep coming back to the idea that there must be a bigger driving force.

At the same time these thoughts were going through my head, there was a man on his computer in Los Angeles searching the words “Kindness is Contagious.” Guess what he found? Me.

I love the way the world works. You see, this man unknowingly gave me exactly what I was looking for: scientific evidence proving it pays to be kind and that kindness truly is contagious.

David Gaz was born in Michigan, grew up in New Jersey, studied in Los Angeles, moved to Paris, then San Francisco and is now back in L.A. Gaz says he’s always had a concern with the status quo, but it has been more about critiquing it rather than fixing it. Three years ago, his wife suggested that he focus on the positive, so he began researching kindness.

That research gave birth to a documentary called “Good Virus” in which Gaz combines data from top scientists, historical evidence and social trends in a fascinating 76-minute movie.

The whole thing is narrated by Catherine Ryan Hyde, the best-selling author of the novel and film “Pay It Forward.”

She was the woman who introduced the entire world to the idea of organized kindness: Pay a kindness to three people and ask each of them to pay it to three others, and so on, and eventually the kindness will come back to you. It works on multiplication of threes, so even if lots of people drop the ball, the enormity of the exponential system of math keeps the cycle of kindness going.

When Gaz emailed me, asking if I’d like to take a look at his documentary, I thought, “Sure, I’m always interested in things dealing with kindness.” Twenty minutes into the movie, I had to start taking notes because there were so many things I wanted to research on my own. I was mesmerized.

Did you know Charles Darwin claimed sympathy is our strongest instinct? Getting our genes passed on to the next generation is so vitally important that our nervous system actually evolved to help us be kind to our offspring. I knew there was a reason I have never had the urge to eat my young.

That’s in the movie.

Did you know kind people do better than their less-kind counterparts in competitive life-skills games? People trust them more and give them more resources, so they end up winning.

That’s in the movie.

Did you know that people who interacted online with someone who was kind became kind themselves, which in turn affected their other online relationships?

That’s in the movie.

I can almost hear you skeptics out there shouting scary scientific words at me like variable, control group and confidence interval.

That’s in the movie.

They interview very respected scientists from Harvard and Berkeley who have scientifically proven (with control groups, variables and the whole nine yards) that kindness is contagious and that nice guys finish first.

I supposed it would have made sense to hold off on this column until the Fargo Theatre marquis reads “Good Virus,” but the movie’s not out yet. It has to make its way through the film festivals first, and I just couldn’t wait until then to share with you the great news.

Kindness matters. It is contagious. And there are plenty of people in this world working to prove it.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at nphillips15@hotmail.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.

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