• Patri Psychologist: "To live with serenity you have to stop running everywhere"
  • The punk psychologist against positivist self-esteem: "Feeling terrible is human"

January: New year, counter to zero and the best intentions. Now I'm going to go to the gym, I want to eat healthy, I'll be more organized, I'll study English... Nothing we have chosen as a purpose is as urgent as practicing kindness, the "natural inclination to do good" and that "kindness of one person to another," according to the RAE. Different research confirms that betting on kindness in our daily lives has positive consequences on our brain and our general state of health. In addition, it contributes to the formation of more stable and positive social bonds.

"Kindness is what makes us happy and what truly gives meaning to our lives, as Viktor E. Frankl wrote after spending time in a concentration camp. And not only that, a good person is how we would like to be remembered. This is how all the patients explained it to my admired friend, the psycho-oncologist Ainhoa Videgain, in her last days of life", says José Luis Bimbela Pedrola (Barcelona, 6 November 1956), author of Practical and Radical Goodness (Ed. Desclée De Brouwer) and professor at the Andalusian School of Public Health in Granada, PhD in Psychology and Master's Degree in Drug Addiction from the University of Barcelona.

This conversation with Videgain was precisely his motivation to write the issue, when neither the Russian invasion of Ukraine nor the war between Israel and Gaza had begun after the surprise attack by Hamas. "Today, in 2024, it would be even more necessary," he says. "I decide, I do, I train, I infect. With the decision to choose kindness as a purpose, you will win, your environment and society as a whole will win." And he warns: "But, once you have bet, take action and turn it into behavior by dint of habits and discipline so that you do not give up after two days and that the wheel of the gym and the English is repeated again."


Bimbela holds a PhD in Psychology, is a public health worker, a teacher and the author of several books. Shutterstock

Should we strive to be a good person in an individualistic and selfish context? "Of course you have to work for it! That human beings aspire to goodness is something we already know and behavioral science, anthropology and neuropsychology, is consolidating that idea." As a public health worker for 30 years, he is a strong advocate of prevention than cure. "We can't live leaving collateral damage and then pretend to leave that good memory as a father, as a son, as a friend of my friends, as a life partner... You have to incorporate it into your day-to-day life and work on it continuously," he argues.

He gives the example of cabin depressurization. On a plane, before attending to the person next to you, it is key that you put on your own mask. The same thing happens in society: I with me is the most immediate level of salvation, I with you comes later, then we and us. This order is key." He remembers the stage of the coronavirus crisis, when personal responsibility was key to not infecting others. Have we already forgotten the 'we'll come out better'?

"As a group, as a species, we were threatened by the pandemic. Faced with that, we went to the essentials. In danger, we band together to survive. Once the worst thing is over, we forget about it." You can never magically get better, he insists: "Only if you decide and if you do it. It's like when you're healthy, you live without thinking about the disease, and it's only if you lack health that you notice it."


Challenges such as climate change, growing mental health issues, global crises... They depict a reality where fear and uncertainty keep us from being able to connect with other people. That's why Bimbela encourages you to train kindness like exercise, so it doesn't have to be a sacrifice and becomes an enjoyment.

"It is a very difficult time in which we are going like sheep, without envisioning welfare goals for all. The studies I've reviewed and cite in the book say that altruistic behaviors increase oxytocin and decrease cortisol, the stress hormone."

A patient with chronic pain, this psychologist has improved his quality of life through certain care such as healthy eating and exercise. That is why he emphasizes that "beneficial actions are also related in recent studies to the reduction of inflammatory processes."

In addition to this more physical health, in the emotional part that kindness brings, he quotes the Greek philosopher Epictetus: "The most important thing is not what happens, but how I interpret what happens to me. It empowers us as individuals in the face of a situation that we can view in a more pessimistic and catastrophic way."

In social health, he is committed to the famous 6 verbs 6 of communication: "Ask, listen, empathize, summarize, reinforce and provide feedback. In the realm of kindness, they build relationships of mutual respect and trust." A very important aspect in the face of social polarization, the word of the year. "You see a lot of conversations where you're not listening, but you're thinking about how you're going to fight back in the next rebuttal." We're also very much guessing. "We have to ask questions in order to understand the feelings or reasons of others, even if we don't share them," the expert reflects.

For the spiritual dimension, linked to the meaning of life and not necessarily to a religion, it is based on eudaimonia, the state of contentment usually due to one's situation in life, as opposed to more hedonic pleasures such as sex, food or money. "You have to find a vocation or meaning in order to be happy." You don't have to be over-ambitious. All it takes is a "reason to get up every morning."

Finally, in order to maintain a kind behavior over time, he talks about ethical health. "It's the strategy that's talked about in business schools and we've all heard it before: win-win. It was already in the biblical writings in that 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself'. No one can be so good that they look foolish, it's not about going like a martyr, but understanding that goodness is for everyone. To be able to give the best to the other, you first have to take care of yourself."


Why do we look like worse people on social media like X, where everyone seems? In the book, the writer bets on asking us first if we are going to contribute something with our commentary, instead of blurting out things that we would never say to our faces. "Before you do something, you have to measure the consequences, and not just if you're going to insult, which is the most obvious thing because you already intend to harm the other. It's just that there are times when we don't even intend to hurt but we cause harm to someone and we also have to measure that before acting."

Bimbela talks about the behavioral selfie. It consists of making a portrait with our own diagnosis. "A snapshot of the behavior we want to change in order to set kind behaviors in motion before we even want to change others."

It refers to the fact that we are very prone to telling our children or our partner how they should act and be, he criticizes, without first doing the self-scanner. "It will give us a clue as to what costs us the most and what the least so that all this is not a toast to the sun," he concludes. Because if we want to change the world we have to start with ourselves and with small steps.

Practical and Radical Goodness, by José Luis Bimbela Pedrola is published by Desclée de Brouwer and you can buy it here.

  • HBPR