It is World Kindness Day 2017 today, so it is important to look at the benefits of being kind and doing random acts of kindness can have on a person’s physical and mental health.
Did you know that random acts of kindness not only make us feel more connected to each other but can also have huge benefits on our physical and mental wellbeing? Research has shown that engaging in positive activities like regularly being kind to others boosts positive emotions, thoughts and behaviour, which in turn improves your general wellbeing. Studies have also 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’.
So why is this? Well it is because of Altruism. What do we mean by the word altruism? In short, altruism is when we put other people’s needs before our own, whether it’s offering your seat to a pregnant woman on a bus or making a cup of tea for a work colleague. There are many different ways that you can help others as part of your everyday life. Carrying out good deeds doesn’t need to take a lot of time or even cost money. Small changes can make a big difference.
What are the health benefits?
- Helping others feels good
When you help others, it promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness.
These rushes are often followed by longer periods of calm and can eventually lead to better wellbeing. Helping others improves social support, encourages us to lead a more physically active lifestyle, distracts us from our own problems, allows us to engage in a meaningful activity and improves our self-esteem and confidence.
- It brings a sense of belonging and reduces isolation
Being a part of a social network leads to a feeling of belonging. Face-to-face activities such as volunteering at a drop-in centre can help reduce loneliness and isolation.
- It helps to keep things in perspective
Many people don’t realise the impact that a different perspective can have on their outlook on life.
Helping others in need, especially those who are less fortunate than yourself, can provide a real sense of perspective and make you realise how lucky you are, enabling you to stop focusing on what you feel you are missing – helping you to achieve a more positive outlook on the things that may be causing you stress.
- It helps make the world a happier place – it’s contagious!
Acts of kindness have the potential to make the world a happier place. An act of kindness can improve confidence, control, happiness, and optimism.
It can also encourage others to repeat the good deed that they’ve experienced themselves – it contributes to a more positive community.
- The more you do for others, the more you do for yourself
Evidence shows that the benefits of helping others can last long after the act itself by providing a ‘kindness bank’ of memories that can be drawn upon in the future.
- It reduces stress
Positive emotions reduce stress and boost our immune system, and in turn can protect us against disease.
- It helps get rid of negative feelings
Negative emotions such as anger, aggression or hostility have a negative impact on our mind and body. Engaging in random acts of kindness can help decrease these feelings and stabilise our overall health.
- It can help us live longer
Giving and helping others may increase how long we live. Studies of older people show that those who give support to others live longer than those who don’t.
The moral of the story is to be kind and do kind acts for others. You can benefit your heart, reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and simply be a happier human being.
By Reece Hobson