How kind acts can improve your mental and physical health
BY MIMI GREENWOOD KNIGHT
Being kind and helping others doesn’t just make the world better — it makes you better. Scientific studies have shown that the very act of giving of yourself to others releases a neurochemical boost or “helper’s high” that can enhance your happiness, health, and sense of well being.
Longer Life: Research has shown that performing kind acts can improve your ability to manage stress, stave off disease, reduce depression rates, increase a sense of life satisfaction, alleviate loneliness, and enhance your social life. All factors that can significantly affect your long-term health.
It’s Contagious: Altruism breeds altruism, causing a chain reaction of kind acts. One study found that people are more likely to perform generous deeds after observing another do so, rippling throughout the community and inspiring dozens to make a difference in someone else’s lives.
A Happier You: One sociology experiment tracking 2,000 people over five years found that Americans who described themselves as “very happy” were those who volunteered at least five hours per month. Researchers also think that giving to others might give you a mental boost by providing you with a neurochemical sense of reward and enhancing your overall feeling of purpose and identity.
Lower Blood Pressure and Reduced Pain: According to one study, people who suffered from chronic pain and started working as peer volunteers experienced a reduction in their symptoms. Another study showed that older individuals who volunteered at least 200 hours a year decreased their hypertension risk by a whopping 40%. And a study by the Mayo Clinic found that kind acts and a spirit of gratitude reduce stress, which lowers blood pressure.
It doesn’t take long to extend kindness to your fellow man. (Extra points if you do it anonymously.) Remember the words of Mother Theresa, “We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.”
13 Simple Acts of Kindness
While grand gestures are great, even small acts of kindness can improve your health:
• Let another shopper in line in front of you in the grocery store.
• Write a thank-you note to someone who offered kindness to you.
• Give sincere compliments.
• Hold the door.
• Donate time and/or finances to a worthy cause, such as your local food bank.
• If you’re medically able, donate blood or platelets.
• Bring your neighbor’s trash cans up from the curb.
• Pick up a piece of litter.
• Set out bird feeders and keep them full.
• Pay the toll of the person behind you.
• Surprise a coworker with a cup of coffee.
• Allow someone to merge into traffic.
• Leave a positive online review.