Marsha Linehan, the developer of Dialectical Behavior Theory for the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder uses a simple phrase to describe the goal of her therapy: to help people create a life worth living.

How does that work?

One of the social skills modules taught in DBT is intended to decrease negative emotions about yourself is by expressing positive attitudes toward others. In fact, a recent study has shown that simple acts of kindness to others can increase a person’s levels of self-esteem, gratitude and happiness – in just 12 minutes!

The study, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, was conducted by psychologist Douglas Gentile and colleagues at Iowa State University. 12 participants were instructed to take a 12 minute walk around a building and mentally wishing people they came across well. For example by sincerely thinking “I wish for this person to be happy.”

Those who expressed this type of kindness were found to experience lower anxiety, greater happiness, greater empathy, and higher feelings of caring and interpersonal connectedness than those in two other groups who practiced different approaches while taking the same 12 minute stroll. People in these control groups were instructed to look at people and focus on what they saw on the outside, such as their clothing, color combinations and textures, makeup and accessories and to mentally compare themselves to the people they saw. The study data showed that participants in these two groups did not experience the same positive improvements as the first group and, in fact, some felt worse.

Could obtaining a higher state of happiness it be that easy? It just may be. According to Professor Gentile, “It’s a simple strategy that doesn’t take a lot of time that you can incorporate into your daily activities.”

I hope this makes you feel happy, too.

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