Studies reveal that acts of kindness provide health benefits for both the giver and the receiver.
Kindness is contagious. It starts with one person on one day with one act, and then it spreads like wildfire. The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain by the giver, the receiver and everyone who witnessed the act. According to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, these instances improve the moods of everyone involved, making them more likely to “pay it forward.” On Be Kind to Humankind Week, we’re awed by the magic that surrounds one act of kindness and how it makes the world a better place.
Kindness is therapeutic. Research by the Journal of Happiness Studies found that people who wrote down what they were grateful for, as well as acts of kindness they’ve witnessed, experienced a higher percentage of “happy days,” where they felt optimistic and expected the best to happen. They also saw their lives as more meaningful, more connected with others and more satisfying overall. That said, it’s important to note that the surveyed groups consisted exclusively of people seeking psychotherapy; they weren’t just happy people looking to be happier. In the end, those seeking help stimulated the positive change within themselves by recognizing kindness.
Kindness is proven to make you happier. A 2010 survey by the Harvard Business School found that people who are altruistic, and financially generous were ultimately the happiest.
Counters Social Anxiety
Research found that those with social anxiety may have less anxiety interacting with others if they’re performing good deeds. The study found that the performance of good deeds is a powerful tool in helping to ease the suffering of those afflicted with social anxiety.
According to Jennifer Trew of Simon Fraser University, the study’s co-author, "Acts of kindness may help to counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person's social environment. It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations."
Gratification and the “Helper’s High”
According to Psychology Today, the giver of altruistic acts may ultimately gain even more than the receiver. The act of giving releases endorphins, causing a rush often known as the “helper’s high.” It does so by distracting you from your own problems, making you feel more grateful for what you already have.
Active volunteers tend to live longer and have better physical health than non-volunteers. Kindness also stimulates serotonin production in the brain which can actually help heal your wounds. Acts of kindness also stimulate the release of oxytocin, which in turn reduces blood pressure.
According to author Sherrie Carter, “People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44 percent lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.”
Take time this week to participate in small acts of kindness. They may go farther than you think.