Small acts of kindness can boost student health and well-being, study finds


According to the researchers, a small act of kindness can go a long way in strengthening 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 that explores the impact of including a duty of kindness in an undergraduate course on the perception of students of themselves, their peers and their campus.

While there have been several studies that have assessed the effects of kindness on well-being, there has been little research on how college-aged students understand and implement kindness, explains the Dr Binfet.

Thousands of college students returned to class across Canada in September, and Dr Binfet notes that while living in the days of COVID-19, every act of kindness goes a long way.

“We know that being kind provides a number of wellness benefits, such as stress reduction, happiness and peer acceptance, and we know that mental health impacts learning, ”says Dr Binfet.

“The post-secondary environment is often the last training ground to prepare students for life. So we want to understand how we can prepare students for optimal mental health in adulthood. “

For the study, student volunteers provided self-assessments to determine how nice they see themselves in online and face-to-face interactions, and how connected they feel to their peers and to the campus. The students were then asked to plan and perform five acts of kindness over a week.

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

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

While there are campus wellness resources available to students at most post-secondary schools, this research shows that by including wellness initiatives in classrooms, it is easier for greater number of students to engage in these activities and receive benefits without additional effort. The study also demonstrated that a curriculum-based caring intervention would be welcomed by students.

“We found that the students loved the assignment,” says Dr. Stewart of the study, published in Journal of Complementary and Higher Education. “For some, it has helped them realize that kindness is a skill they can learn to do better and that there are many ways to be kind. For others, it helped them realize that they were already doing nice things. It reinforced their desire and intention to do kinder acts. “

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For years, Dr. Binfet’s research has focused on improving the discussion of kindness, and he’s already done studies on how children and teens perceive and apply kindness.

“With this research, we are now seeing an alignment in how college students and school-aged participants define kindness – to them, it means actions that can improve the lives of others. A lot of times it’s simple things like being polite and helping others, ”says Dr Binfet.

Source: University of British Columbia

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