Paying it forward is the concept of repaying an act of kindness by being compassionate or generous to someone else in the future. The idea, which originated in ancient Greece, is about creating ripples of kindness that expand within the community and through time. This might sound like it belongs in a fairy tale or chocolate box movie but there is hard science to support the benefits.
The Helpers’ High
The curious buzz that occurs when we are kind to someone is called the “helpers high”. The brain releases a cocktail of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, collectively known as the feel-good bio-chemicals which leave us feeling euphoric. Research confirms that we feel the same pleasure responses irrespective of whether we are giving the donations or receiving the rewards.
There are plenty of other benefits too. People who regularly engage in acts of kindness have 23% lower levels of cortisol and age more slowly, proving that caring for others really does reduce stress. Volunteers report fewer aches and pains, and the Harvard Business School, in a global survey, found that people who are financially generous are also happier.
Building Back Better
It can be hard to be compassionate when you are feeling low or depressed. However, simple mental exercises or hypnosis sessions can help people reconnect to a sense of fulfilment or completion.
Just entering the state of hypnosis reduces unwanted tension. Mental clarity follows hypnotic relaxation, and people start to see things in their true perspective. The next step involves giving oneself positive suggestions through a process called self-hypnosis.
It only takes one or two sessions to learn how to do this. Once you are acquainted with self-compassion, it is easy to imagine feeling empathy toward a loved one. A little more coaching and you are free to mentally direct this same positive intent toward someone or a situation with which you may have conflict.
Compassion is like a physical or academic skill. Every time you imagine or do something for someone else, it stretches the muscle a little bit more. Studies show that the ability to respond or express kindness improves after just 7 hours of training. Practice creates an instinctual response reflected by both behaviour and brain activity. Magnetic imaging scans show a progressive increase in activity in the inferior parietal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and other brain regions involved in empathy, understanding, emotion regulation, and positive emotions.
This type of training opens the door to many possibilities. For some people, it is about finding a new career in the helping professions, but the skills are also easy to share with the community and family creating natural opportunities to pay it forward.
Kindness At Work
The compassion economy is emerging slowly in business. Many employers recognise the need for mental well-being strategies that can help people mitigate stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Research shows that organisations which actively foster kindness in the workplace enjoy both the warm and fuzzy effects that accompany acts of kindness, and the benefit from the multiplying up and downstream payoffs that it creates.
The pay it forward at work culture can easily become part of everyday business engagement. Managers regularly mentor new staff, and team members with different skills are required to share knowledge and look out for others to ensure smooth workflow. Formal appreciation of these efforts requires a shift of attitude, but the effect reduces stress, strengthens team cohesion, and often improves customer engagement and business networking opportunities.
Research shows that organisations which operate with compassion reduce burnout and stress. Employees become more creative, engaged, loyal, and overall productivity improves.
Pay it Forward has become a global initiative. It is a reminder that small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can literally change the world for a better place. In 2022, over 80 countries including Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the UK participated, pledging to inspire 10 million acts of kindness around the world.
Their efforts are a reminder that generosity and compassion matter. It is easy to forget in our efforts to balance the books and to get ahead, that the way we engage has an impact on others. Paying it Forward Day (PIFD) is a reminder that what we say and do matters, and ultimately the person paying it forward grows as much as the person who receives the act of kindness.
The Pay It Forward Challenge
Paying it Forward alters our cultural identity and leaves a legacy of kindness for the future. We invite you to do something generous several times a week at home, in the workplace, or in the community. It can be as simple as a smile or a thank you, helping a co-worker, or a bigger than usual tip for a harassed waitress. But it can be something big and special too.
What we say or do matters. People who act more altruistically make the world a happier place and ultimately, the person paying it forward grows just as much as the person receiving the act of kindness.