Wider Worldview is a new live podcast hosted by Color & Curiosity founder Megan Zink that explores the power of travel – how it can change the world: spark new ideas, foster different perspectives, catalyst curiosity and lifelong learning. Join her for interviews with entrepreneurs, educators and explorers and get inspired to tap into travel as an experiential learning and empathy building tool. In this interview Megan interviews Megan Snedden of The Kind Effect on her journey and how random acts of kindness can help you heal and create more empathy and understanding in the world.
Head over to this link to catch the full audio recording on Fireside with Megan Snedden of The Kind Effect – but in the meantime, here’s a snippet of the conversation. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Megan, can you share a little bit about your background and journey to The Kind Effect with the audience? How did you take such a simple idea – ‘be kind’ – and turn it into this amazing global force? Did your journalist background have anything to do with that?
There’s one coach I really like, his name is Tom Z, and he helps people through grief, but he says something along the lines of ‘life prepares for life’ – where you end up on this journey, you may not expect, but somehow you pull from your previous experiences to be able to make that happen, and that’s kind of the case for me. There never really was, ‘ooh, I’m going to set out and get on all these media platforms, and do all these things.’ It just kind of evolved that way, most likely because of my background. But essentially, I was working as a full-time journalist, for a long time – I started right out of college and my goal and life was just to rack up publication titles and climb that ladder. And I really thought that when I got to the top of my career, that’s what would be waiting for me – that feeling of success and ultimate fulfillment.
And then I got that success that I aspired to; I was writing for some of the top publications out there – and I just didn’t feel completely happy. I was doing what I really wanted, but I wasn’t completely fulfilled. And I think it was just because I was missing something from my life – that purpose of life. I really love telling stories, but I just had this intuitive feeling like, there has to be more, you know? And actually, acts of random kindness have always been a regular practice and part of my life. What I really like about random acts of kindness is that it goes back to simplicity, and I think that’s all you really need in life to find purpose or meaning – really going about your day-to-day and trying to think of ways that you can uplift others in simple ways.
You don’t have to start a big nonprofit, you don’t have to spearhead a colossal movement. You can just remember, ‘how can I be kind to someone else?’ So when I was thinking about what it is that I really want to do that is going to make a difference, I thought back to that – ‘yeah, kindness has made this big difference in hindsight’. I thought that if I were encouraging others to do the same, it could really make a difference for them. And as I said, I have a passion for content creation and storytelling, and really wanted to use those skills in order to amplify the message and get some positive content into the hands of people with The Kind Effect. We’re no strangers to the idea that what we see in the news every day is just toxic because it’s so negative, it can lead us to have the perspective that the world is a dangerous place – but great things are happening every day.
Making the switch and climbing ‘off’ that ladder of success you talked about, it’s what keeps a lot of people going in the direction they’re going. How did you make that pivot from this perpetual direction that you were heading in – like ‘let me be something that actually fulfills me and benefits others.’?
Part of my story I’m really open about sharing is about depression and anxiety. I was already feeling that before the change happened for me – it’s not like I left my career in journalism and then I became depressed – I was already experiencing depression and anxiety before that even happened. I just tend to be someone who bases things upon intuition and gut feelings.
And I really had checked that box – I had moved my whole life to New York City, was hustling, having coffee with anybody that would have coffee with me at the time. I worked my butt off to climb that ladder and it was exhausting. So when I got to the point in my career where I was like, ‘alright, I’m writing for BBC, I’ve been an editor and a writer with USA Today,’ it just felt complete. I was like, ‘there’s nowhere else I can go.’ If I got one more publication title, it wasn’t gonna make me feel any better. I knew for myself and my well-being I really just needed to change and I was okay with letting go.
You’ve spent time traveling all over the world documenting cultures, acting as a foreign correspondent – can you tell us a little bit about some kindness you’ve observed in other places, in other cultures? Do you think it’s more abundant than here, or how does it differ from here?
From a sociological standpoint, what I’ve observed more than anything is, a country like the United States – we’re a very capitalistic, me-first culture – so having to promote kindness and encourage people to be kind is a very real thing versus other cultures who are more communal. So other countries, like Asia, for example, are more likely to engage in pro-social behavior because they’re part of more cohesive cultures that are used to functioning more like a ‘we’ than a ‘me’. But kindness isn’t something that happens organically, necessarily – it’s something that I’m practicing as constantly as my own mindfulness practice. Because I know it’s something that benefits not only the lives of others but is beneficial for my own mental health and well-being.
And you have a program called The Kind Challenge on The Kind Effect?
Yes, and it’s free – you can sign up on The Kind Effect website. There are these happiness studies that have come out of Harvard that look at different areas of your life and how you can start to amplify those so that you can increase your overall state of wellbeing. They call it subjective wellbeing.
That’s the fancy term for happiness. And they have a survey if you want to measure your subjective wellbeing – happiness – to get a measure on where you’re currently at. If you have to think about incorporating acts of kindness into your life and its difficult – I’m really encouraging people to take this kind challenge and do these happiness surveys – they show that if you take a survey, and then go out and do some kindness, and you go back and take those happiness surveys again after 3 days, you can see the impact.
And there are a lot of factors of random acts of kindness that make us feel good – if we’re going to get into the science – let’s say I go up to somebody and say, ‘hey, these flowers are for you’ – I surprise a stranger with flowers. We see them smile, and then we get a couple of things out of that – we smile in return, and the muscles around our face send information up to our brain to be like, ‘oh, we’re happy right now’ so you get this rush of what they call the Helper’s High because you release all these chemicals in your body that make you feel good.
And speaking from the perspective of somebody who’s learned to live with depression – when we do something for someone else, we’re also able to witness the difference that it made, and essentially create evidence that shows, ‘hey, I did something – I did a thing that made a difference to someone else – and what I do matters.’ It’s almost like a form of cognitive behavioral therapy. If you’re going through a career change, or any there life change, may loss, maybe divorce – doing these types of things for your feelings are really important, because you’re going to need new evidence for yourself that what you do matters.
There’s a lot of really great science that’s coming out about it. And the reason why I’ve begun to share my own story of depression and anxiety publicly and through The Kind Effect, which is something that I didn’t used to do, is because the more I’ve been open about it, the more I’ve become aware that so many people are living with it and struggling with it – especially in this time right now where there’s so much change and so much impacting us. And the unfortunate and difficult thing about depression is that it doesn’t fix itself. You really have to create a regular practice that you keep up with to create enough upward spiral. I highly recommend people make random acts of kindness a part of that.
Megan, you’ve done acts of kindness all over the world, I know this is probably a loaded question but can you share the most profound or favorite experience of one of the acts of kindness you’ve done?
I already know what it is. In my research about kindness, one of my favorite things sociologists talk about is how kindness and random acts of kindness can help us create a greater sense of tolerance toward others in our lives. If somebody you know is discriminating against a group, that they might not understand, well, studies have shown that those who have done kind things toward those they hate, actually end up adopting favorable or understanding opinions of others.
There’ve been countries I’ve traveled to where maybe I haven’t understood their political or economic situation – I went to Myanmar – look at the news. There’s a lot of stuff about their society that is a little bit controversial. It’s complicated, because you’re putting together people of different backgrounds and religions under one umbrella. And I didn’t even know that much – I went in with an open mind.
And we made some donations to people in the Buddhist center and got to know some of the monks there – and I just found the people of Myanmar to be such warm, welcoming and curious, amazing people, and it’s really sad to me that right now there are countries struggling with military coup. I don’t think anybody is defined by their minority groups or their political situation. Within a country – not everyone is involved with the military. They’re just everyday people that want to get by. And are doing their best just like us. And the more that you engage in kindness and open your mind, and your compassion, the more you start to realize just how much that we have in common with people in other parts of the world.
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Learn More About Megan Snedden and The Kind Effect
- The Kind Effect Website: https://www.thekindeffect.com/about
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/megansnedden/
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meganlsnedden
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5mvCq8L5–4uniMtQqg0Hg