I was up early this morning to catch a flight back to the UK after a weekend in Zurich. As you might expect in Switzerland, everything went like clockwork. The only slightly stressful part was hauling my suitcase up a crowded set of stairs to catch the train home on the final leg of the journey. As I ran for the right platform, I overheard a couple ask a passing railway employee if the train on the left was going to London. “No” he replied, and continued to walk away, without making eye contact. “It’s the train on the right,” my husband pointed out (rather more helpfully).
It wouldn’t have cost the employee much to have provided the answer.
My husband might actually come out of this encounter as the winner. Advocates of positive psychology argue that random acts of kindness actually make the actor feel better.
Sonja Lyubomirsky is a professor of psychology at Stanford University in the USA. Her (2004) research aimed to discover whether asking people to carry out five random acts of kindness would reliably increase their own level of positive emotion. The good news is that it does. Apparently the feel-good factor is most effective if all five acts are carried out on the same day.
So my other half still has four of his ‘five a day’ to go. The railway employee, on the other hand, has much further to travel.