The science is in, and kindness just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Countless studies from around the globe have proven that even the tiniest acts of kindness can improve our health, boost our mood and make us feel better about ourselves and the world
At times like these, when upsetting events seem to dominate the day’s news, a dose of kindness may be just what the doctor ordered. And it’s not just receiving kindness that can brighten our day. Giving kindness, it turns out, can have an even greater effect on the spirit.
Here are some of the surprising ways that kindness can make you healthier and happier.
The “Helper’s High”
Ever notice that when you help someone out – whether it’s volunteering at a food bank, donating to charity or paying for someone’s coffee – you get a rush of warm, happy feelings? It’s not a coincidence.
Altruism (the act of helping others) boosts serotonin levels and triggers a release of endorphins nicknamed the “helper’s high.” In other words, helping others may be helping you even more. Now that’s a major win-win.
Better Relationships, Healthier You
Having deep, meaningful relationships has long been associated with positive mental health, but it turns out it can help you live longer, too. Studies have shown that having a strong network of friends and family has an effect on blood pressure comparable to exercise.
Separate research examining the health risks of loneliness found that people who lacked a support network were also at greater risk of developing heart disease. So kindness can not only make the heart grow fonder, but help it grow stronger, too.
Ward Off Illness
Acts of kindness and compassion are also linked to lowering inflammation in the body. The reason? A hormone called oxytocin.
Feelings of emotional satisfaction trigger the release of oxytocin, creating the sensation we know as “warm and fuzzies.” Along with these happy feelings comes a surge of self-esteem and optimism. Oxytocin also works to lower inflammation, which is associated with a wide range of health issues, from diabetes and cancer to chronic pain and migraines.
Melt Away Stress
It’s no secret that stress can be a killer. From work to finances to the sadness we see in the news every day, stress can cast a dark shadow over our lives. Kindness, it turns out, can be an effective antidote.
Research shows that interactions as simple as saying hello or sharing a smile with a cashier or barista can instantly improve your mood and emotional functioning. Human kindness, while so simple, can give you a much-needed break from your problems.
What’s more, simply witnessing an act of kindness can make you feel happier, and inspire you to be kinder to others. So maybe a little more kindness really is what we all need right now to improve our collective health in body, mind and spirit.
And there’s no better time to start than today.