Happy National Random Acts of Kindness Day! We couldn’t think of a better holiday to celebrate with our community.
Studies have shown that Kindness makes us happier, gives us healthier hearts, slows aging, makes for better relationships , and is contagious.
Kindness makes us happier because when we do something kind for someone else, we feel good. On a spiritual level, many people feel that this is because it is the right thing to do and so we’re tapping into something deep and profound inside of us. On a biochemical level, it is believed that the good feeling we get is due to elevated levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin, which we know as endogenous opioids. They cause elevated levels of dopamine in the brain and so we get a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.
Studies show that kindness gives us healthier hearts because acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body. Of recent interest is its significant role in the cardiovascular system. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure). The key is that acts kindness can produce oxytocin and therefore kindness can be said to be cardioprotective.
Kindness can also slow aging on a biochemical level, but two culprits that speed the process are Free Radicals and Inflammation, both of which result from making unhealthy lifestyle choices. But remarkable research now shows that oxytocin (that we produce through emotional warmth) reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and so slows aging at source. Incidentally these two culprits also play a major role in heart disease so this is also another reason why kindness is good for the heart.
The act of kindness can better relationships, which is one of the most obvious points. We all know that we like people who show us kindness. This is because kindness reduces the emotional distance between two people and so we feel more bonded. It’s something that is so strong in us that it’s actually a genetic thing. We are wired for kindness.
And as we have all heard as kids, kindness is contagious. When we’re kind we inspire others to be kind and studies show that it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards. So acts of kindness ripple outwards touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.
Research reveals that doing good deeds, or kind acts, can make socially-anxious people feel better. Dr. Katherine Nelson did a six-week study at Sewanee University. This study involved nearly 500 participants, Nelson and her colleagues sought to compare how pro-social behavior — practicing acts of kindness for others or the world — compares to self-oriented behavior, or doing acts of kindness for yourself. Volunteers were divided into four groups: the first group was asked to complete acts of kindness to improve the world, such as picking up litter; the second group performed acts of kindness for other people, such as buying a friend a cup of coffee or helping a family member cook dinner; the third group performed acts of kindness to themselves, like exercising more or taking a day off from work; and lastly, the fourth group did nothing out of their ordinary activities.
Prior to the experiment and six weeks after, the participants filled out a questionnaire to assess their psychological, emotional, and social well-being. They were also required to self-report their positive and negative emotions weekly during the study.
The findings revealed participants who performed acts of kindness, whether for the world or for others, were more likely to report feeling happy or to experience improvement in their mood than were the control group and those who were kind to themselves. In fact, those who treated themselves did not see any improvement in well-being or positive emotions.
Kindness is all around us. Some of us may do it on a regular basis and not even notice, while others may have lost touch of doing kind acts. So not just for today but everyday; focus more on improving your mental health by being kind to others and others will be kind back.
Need suggestions on how to be kind today? Here are a few ideas to get the kindness flowing:
- Buy your coworker coffee and a doughnut.
- Cook your roommate dinner.
- Send your mom flowers or a handwritten card.
- Anonymously pay for someone else’s meal at a restaurant or drive through.
- Send someone you love a quick text to let them know you’re thinking about them. Kindness doesn’t have to be bold, just thoughtful!
- Bake your favorite dessert and bring it in to your coworkers.
- Help carry someone’s groceries.
- A simple compliment to a stranger or friend.
- Write a note to a friend telling them how much you appreciate them.
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