On January 1st, 2018 we kickstarted our Deliberately Better movement.
Along with other passionate and driven allied health professionals, we aimed to highlight the various ways that people can choose to act if they wish to scientifically improve their health and well-being.
In January, we aimed to engage in a random act of kindness each day.
This was a fun experiment, and I tried to make a video of my acts of kindness every second day, which I was mostly successful with:
- On day 4, I supported a friend on a hang gliding expedition
- On day 6, I spent some quality time with my dad and played a round of golf with him
- On day 8, I donated some spare change to the Royal Children’s Hospital
- On day 12, I bought a copy of the big issue to support a rough sleeper
- On day 14, we left a big tip at a restaurant that stayed open for us
- On day 16, I donated plasma to the red cross blood bank
- On day 18, I topped up some stranger’s parking meters
- On day 20, I donated some clothes to charity
- On day 22, I supported an organisation that was trying to raise money to protect a wilderness area in Tasmania
- On day 24, I proofread a book that my friend had written and wanted to publish
- On day 28, I went and played a beach volleyball tournament with my sister.
- On day 30, I handed out bottles of water to people who were homeless around Melbourne.
Even though it was weird to film and promote the acts of kindness that I engaged in, the month really did teach me a few valuable lessons. These are:
Trying to be kind to others feels good
2. Viewing or hearing about others acts of kindness feels great
3. Hearing about or seeing others acts of kindness encourages people to be kinder too
4. Trying to be kind to others can improve social anxiety
5. Trying to be kind to others can enhance energy levels and physical health
To assess changes in how I felt from the beginning to the end of the month of kindness, I completed the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS), as developed by Watson, Clark and Tellegen (1988). This scale has two 10-item scales; one for positive affect and one for negative affect.
If you would like to assess your levels, please answer from 1 to 5 on the following questions for how much you have felt this way recently:
1 = very slightly or not at all
2 = a little
3 = moderately
4 = quite a bit
5 = extremely
Positive affect items:
Negative affect items:
If you want to compare your scores to previous norms, first add up your totals for your positive affect and negative affect.
A 1989 study of 815 Detroit adults by Quinn found an average for positive affect of 36.0. For negative affect, the average was 18.2 (Quinn, 1989).
In 1993, an unpublished study by Wilkinson found an average of 33.5 for positive affect in 114 adult men and 33.9 in 115 adult women. For negative affect, it was 14.2 for the men and 15.5 for the women (Wilkinson, 1993).
What I find interesting about these findings is that US adults report both higher positive and higher negative affect, indicating that they may be more expressive (and more aware) of their emotions than Australians.
My score for positive affect before the kindness challenge was a 32, which was below the norms for both Australian and US adults. Given that I was feeling exhausted by the end of 2017, this makes sense to me. Extraverts are more likely to experience higher levels of positive affect also, and I would consider myself more of an ambivert.
After a month of kindness, this score had shot up to 41, which was more than one standard deviation higher than the norm for Australian men, and much higher than the average for US adults too.
My negative affect was less impacted by my acts of kindness, however, with my score remaining at 16 at both the start and the end of the month. I was slightly less irritable by the end of the month, but I was also a little bit more afraid, and this could have been due to the videos that I was putting up.
Either way, I seem to experience slightly more negative emotions than the average 1993 Australian, and somewhat less than the average 1989 individual from Detroit.
My experiment with being kinder didn’t solve all of my problems, but it did help me to take a few risks, challenge myself, put myself out there more, grow as a result, and hopefully put a few smiles on some people’s faces. That is enough for me, for now.
2018 DELIBERATELY BETTER AGENDA:
* In February, we gave up or cut down on something that was having a negative impact on our quality of life.
* In March, we focused on our diets and looked at what were the most effective ways to lose weight or get into the best shape of your life.
* In April, we looked into the different habits of high performers and how they improve their skills and become as effective as they are at what they do.
* In May, we’ll be looking at how to hijack your hormones and get in control of your sleep, metabolism and energy.
* In June, we’ll be checking out the latest and greatest developments in health and wellness literature, and passing on the top tips from the fields of medicine, psychology, neuroscience, behavioural economics, fitness and nutrition.
* In July, we’ll be exploring the benefits of minimalism, looking at ways to develop and stick to a budget, how to financially plan for the future, how to cut back on spending, how to create passive income streams, and the top tips for investing in or trading on the stock market.
* In August, we’ll be getting into the gym and out onto the track to explore how to bulk up, shred down, get ripped and be the most physically capable than you have ever been in your life.
* In September, we’ll be looking at the latest trends in health technology, and exploring the various options that you have if you want to improve your psychological and physical well-being.
* In October, we’ll be focusing on how to stress less, and sharing the latest tips to calm down quickly if you are distressed and want to live a more relaxed lifestyle in general.
* In November, We’ll be trying something new, and looking at the multitude of benefits that novelty can play in our lives.
* Last, but not least, in December, we’ll be taking stock of the year, reviewing what worked and what didn’t, and cultivating gratitude for all of the fantastic things in our lives.
Dr Damon Ashworth