World Kindness Day is approaching on November 13 and it got me thinking about all the benefits of being kind — not just to the receiver of kindness but to the giver. We could all use a little more kindness these days, that’s for sure.
We are born into this world biologically wired to be kind to others. As children, kindness is part of us and it is something that can be further developed with repetition and practice—just like any life skill. As we have grown up and been exposed to society, life stressors, and other outside influences being kind has become a little more difficult. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the benefits of practicing kindness.
Kindness and empathy are important qualities when it comes to how we are received by others. These qualities help to develop personal relationships, help us to relate most positively with friends and family, and open doors with the strangers we encounter each day. But, kindness has more benefits too. It can actually make you healthier both mentally and physically.
Here are six ways kindness can help you:
1.) Kindness makes you feel good.
Whether you are on the giving or the receiving end of kindness, one thing is for certain—it makes you feel good. Even the smallest acts can brighten a day. Part of that “feeling good” has to do with hormones. The pleasure centers of the brain are activated when you do good for others, releasing serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being. It causes a release of endorphins and can create a phenomenon, similar to the feeling you get after exercise, known as “helper’s high.”
2.) Kindness can ease anxiety.
We all suffer from anxiety at different points in our lives, some more than others. There are lots of different ways to ease anxiety, from exercise, meditation, and therapy to medication, but kindness can also help. Those who suffer from anxiety, especially in social situations, tend to report lower positive moods such as joy, interest, and alertness. When anxiety suffers partake in kind acts, they get that feel-good release of hormones and in turn have more positive mood experiences. Next time you are anxious look for opportunities to help others. The mood lift will likely be worth it.
3.) Kindness is good for your heart.
Remember those feel-good hormones we were talking about? Those are good for your heart, too. There is no doubt that being kind or receiving an act of kindness can “warm your heart.” It is more than just a saying. The actual release of the hormone oxytocin causes a release of nitric acid in the blood vessels, which dilates and expands the vessels, reducing blood pressure and helping your heart.
4.) Kindness can help you live longer.
We are not saying that kindness is a cure-all, but it can’t hurt. Science shows that people who have stronger relationships with others live longer lives. We all, even if we don’t want to admit it, crave community and human interaction. Being kind to others helps us to form those bonds and create that community.
5.) Kindness is a stress buster.
There are so many stressors we are faced with on a daily basis. Our lives are busy and overstimulated with technology. It can feel like we never get a break. Helping others can help to relieve that stress by allowing us to step outside of our lives and to focus on someone else’s, even for a short minute. It might seem silly to add something else when you are already feeling overwhelmed with life, but it can help you to gain perspective and enhance stress coping skills. It can be as simple as opening a door for others, helping to carry groceries to the car, or checking in with someone you know is struggling.
6.) Kindness helps to prevent illness.
Stress causes inflammation in the body which can contribute to lots of health issues including heart disease, cancer, obesity, chronic pain, and migraines. Regular acts of kindness help to lower your stress levels, find more satisfaction and appreciation in life, and ultimately keep you healthier.
Next time you are having a rough day or feel in need of a pick me up, try an act of kindness—volunteer, help a neighbor, or pay it forward in the Starbucks line. The smallest act of kindness can have a big return on your mental and physical health.
Help is Available
If you are struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, don’t hesitate to get help. At Move Forward, our counselors and therapists can provide an individualized plan to meet your needs. We serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania including Hershey, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, etc.
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Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.