Monday, October 5, 2009

Niceness - It's Life Enhancing

Ok, I gotta tell you something... NewScientist (the magazine) is incredibly, amazingly life enhancing!!!! Read that again. Then rush out and subscribe. I really can't recommend NewScientist too damn highly. I threw away reading news papers and traditional media over 30 years ago, and instead subscribed to NewScientist and I've thanked myself ever since. Why?

Cause traditional news media is based and marketed on FUDGE (Fear Uncertainty Disaster Greed and Envy). It is incredibly biased. It's largely puerile. And it rehashes the same stuff again and again and again. It's basically the same process applied to different content. The names change, but the process remains the same. Wars, political overturns and machinations, crime, violence and fluff. There you go, you now have the recipe to create a newspaper. Go for it LOL

Society changes largely due to the social effects of new technologies and advances in science. And where will you read about them... in NewScientist and other like magazines and journals. By reading NS you get an overview of the coming advances in science and technology and can therefore reasonably predict and track the expected social changes that will emerge and impact your life. It keeps you life enhancingly ahead of the 'normal' curve.

Ok, now I've got that of my chest :-) I'll move on to the content of this weeks blog entry.

I was reading NS while enjoying a delicious dinner and a very nice glass of wooded chardonnay, when I came across a great article entitled 'Be nice to people'. The information in the article was life enhancing, so I thought I'd blog on it and share it with you.

The opening paragraphs of the article summarise it nicely:

It sounds kind of obvious, and a little trite: the world would be a better place to live in if we were all a bit kinder to each other. But how can we make that happen?

This is fast becoming a valid scientific question. Psychologists and neuroscientists are exploring how to increase people's capacity for empathy and compassion, with two ongoing studies claiming that meditation not only increases compassionate feelings but also improves physical and emotional health.

But you don't have to be a Buddhist monk or an expert on brain plasticity to help increase global compassion. There is evidence that altruistic acts spread through social networks. In other words, if you are kind to a friend, they are more likely to be kind to someone else they know.

Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School in Boston designed a cooperation game in which 120 students were organised into groups of four and asked to give money to their group. The game lasted five rounds, and after each round the students were reorganised so that no two appeared in the same group twice. The researchers told the participants at the end of each round how much the others in their group had given

They found that generosity is infectious. If someone gave a dollar more than the predicted group average, the others in that group gave approximately 20 cents more than expected in the next round. This altruism persisted into the third round.

Christakis's team found in a separate study that cooperative behaviour spreads to three degrees of separation - from friend to friend to friend. So if you are popular and well connected, you could have a special role to play: your compassionate acts could resonate further through the network, and you are also more likely to benefit from other people's kindness.

Now isn't that interesting -- The power of social networks to amplify consequences and behaviours! When you are compassionate and nice it spreads. Cooperation breeds cooperation. Generosity leads to generosity in return. Now this is truly a life enhancing insight! You can enhance your world by practicing and spreading niceness :-)

How cool is that piece of knowledge! It's a great encouragement to practice random acts of kindness, or give out free hugs. Be extra nice to your friends, it will feel great and lead them to spread the love into their social network. And I think the world can really use as much loving kindness and compassion as we can give it.

So become a 'niceness generator' and enhance your life and the lives of those connected in spreading activation throughout your extended social networks, it really will make a difference to the world!

with kind wishes
and nice thoughts

Christakis's book that describes his research and how to apply it in real life:

Book Description

"Your colleague's husband's sister can make you fat, even if you don't know her. A happy neighbor has more impact on your happiness than a happy spouse. These startling revelations of how much we truly influence one another are revealed in the studies of Drs. Christakis and Fowler, which have repeatedly made front-page news nationwide."

"In CONNECTED, the authors explain why emotions are contagious, how health behaviors spread, why the rich get richer, even how we find and choose our partners. Intriguing and entertaining, CONNECTED overturns the notion of the individual and provides a revolutionary paradigm-that social networks influence our ideas, emotions, health, relationships, behavior, politics, and much more. It will change the way we think about every aspect of our lives."


  1. Fascinating info about the workings of the eye and the analogy with brain evolution. This kind of examination is what elevates the anecdotal to the empirical. Thanks for pulling so many intangibles over the bridge into the Cartesian world, Grant...

    -- Sully

  2. Lawsy, my first comment should have been on the previous blog entry. Still, its general sentiment applies here. I'll only add that we share a similar disenchantment with the media. Love the FUDGE concept...

    -- Sully

  3. Grant

    Well done!

    I congratulate you on your great website and continual positive messages /material you are sending out to people

    Have a most fantastically wonderful day


  4. Hey Sully and Peter, thank you so so much for your positive messages and feedback on the blog. I really appreciate them.

    smilings, Grant

  5. Hey Grant, thanks for highlighting such life enhancing behavior! I'll certainly practice being nice and kind to people.

  6. Another wonderful post! And it works. A few months ago I was in line at security at a large international airport. I wasn't feeling particularly cheerful or energetic, but I watched the security person deal with the people in front of me and could see that he was in worse shape than I was. He looked bored out of his skull and ready to be difficult, so I decided to "happy up" as I call it and be especially nice to him no matter how he treated me. As I walked toward him with a big smile, I watched his countenance change dramatically. We exchanged pleasantries, he complimented me on my smile, and as I walked on I was sure that the next people in line were going to benefit as well.


Share your thoughts and comments...