Science of kindness

Being kind isn’t just a gesture of good nature. There's science behind it, according to a UBC Okanagan professor.

John-Tyler Binfet spoke to students at Skaha Middle School about his research on kindness on national Pink Shirt Day, Wednesday.

“Being kind has a number of positive benefits to the individual receiving and those initiating the kindness. Benefits such as reduction in stress, positive interpersonal relationships and we even see the helper's high, a euphoric buzz from helping others,” said Binfet.

He explained that by not just combating the negative and instead looking to change behaviour to the positive, there can be an academic gain.

“Kids who participate in pro-social interventions in school actually do better 11 to 17 percentile under academics," he said.

While Pink Shirt Day has done a lot to bring attention to bullying, Binfet would like to see educators place more emphasis on the behaviours they want to see from students, such as kindness, rather than on behaviours that should be avoided.

“For change – real change that helps our children live in the world we want for them – the research is telling us that we need to identify, model and acknowledge traits such as compassion and empathy in our schools and in our homes,” he said.

After speaking with teachers and parents, he said there is agreement the ideology should be shared throughout the year.

“We are lucky in B.C. that we are at the forefront of this movement, social emotional learning, that sees the development of kid’s social and emotional skills into curriculum into the school year. A number of our Okanagan school district’s are really behind this.”

Binfet brainstormed with kids, Wednesday, about people in their circle who could use a dose of kindness.

“Then, I asked them to plan out how they could actually go about it. Not that they always would do, but I wanted them to look at how they would execute (kindness) in their local school or community."

Binfet also runs a program called B.A.R.K, building academic retention through canines, which brings therapy dogs to the UBCO campus to decrease stress.

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