A Brock University researcher studying the effects of kindness on mental health and well-being is encouraging people to practice kindness, especially during the winter months.
Sandra Bosacki, Professor in the Faculty of Education and Director of Brock’s Theory of Mind in Education (ToME) Lab, said acts of kindness can go a long way to help people — including those carrying out the kind acts — fend off the winter blues.
Bosacki said that small, kind gestures, such as helping with a task, opening a door for others, or the act of smiling or talking with someone can have a significant impact on one’s well-being and mental state.
“The effects of kindness, with many people struggling with a low mood or feeling sad, can be transformative for people of all ages, including youth,” she said.
Through the Mentalization, Kindness and Well-being Teen Study — research led by Bosacki exploring how kindness plays a role in the links between young people’s mentalization skills — Bosacki and her team aim to contribute to the growing global awareness about the importance of kindness on mental health.
“We also hope that our research inspires others to take part in ‘Random Acts of Kindness Day’ on Feb. 17, which concludes ‘Kindness Week’ beginning Feb. 11,” Bosacki said.
Since the research study on kindness began this past summer, Bosacki said the team is grateful to have received a positive response with preliminary findings suggesting that teenagers share diverse and complex ideas about what kindness means and how to foster kindness in oneself and others.
The research outcomes of the study will also shed light on what type of social skills help teenagers negotiate their relationships and life challenges in their day-to-day lives, such as academic and social pressures.
“As young people leave the world of childhood and enter the unfamiliar landscape of being a teen, one of their main tasks is to prepare for their life journey as an adult,” Bosacki said. “Similar to an emergency survival kit for camping or travelling, teens need to learn how to make a life survival mental tool kit.”
Adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 years old are invited to participate in the ongoing study. Each participant is required to have a personal email address and informed consent provided by one parent.
Participants will complete an online survey, which takes place using Qualtrics and over Microsoft Teams with a researcher to help guide them through the process, which usually takes about 60 minutes and involves watching short video clips and filling out questionnaires.
After the session is completed, participants’ parents will be sent a digital gift card, and will have the opportunity to participate in a follow-up study next year.
Anyone interested in taking part can contact the Theory of Mind in Education lab by email at firstname.lastname@example.org