How a simple act of kindness is beneficial for your mental and physical health, according to a psychologist
An act of kindness can benefit another person’s life, but it can also hugely benefit yours – both mentally and physically. Here, psychologist Tahnee Clark explains exactly how, and reveals eight simple acts of kindness you can do every day that will change your life for the better.
We all know that being kind can have positive benefits on others and if you’ve been on the receiving end of such kindness, you’ll know how good it can make you feel.
Often people want to help others but don’t know how they can be of value to another person. A simple act of kindness is often all someone needs. A simple hello from a stranger, a smile from a neighbour, or generosity from a colleague can genuinely make your day.
And there is science to back it. When we take the time to acknowledge others, we activate our mirror neurons, activating a cascade of natural pleasure chemicals such as oxytocin and dopamine. Oxytocin is released when we bond with others and dopamine gives us a sense of reward. The emotional and physiological enjoyment we get from these connections makes us healthier and happier.
However, have you thought about how being kind might be beneficial to you (not just to the person on the receiving end)? It turns out that being kind actually benefits yourself – maybe even more than it does the other person!
Oftentimes kindness can be a simple act, but it can have countless benefits – here are a few reasons.
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8 reasons why random acts of kindness can benefit you, mentally and physically
1. It can make you happier
There have been various studies that show how kindness can make you happier.
One particular study that seemed to prove this theory measured how happy people were in the morning and then gave them $5 or $20 with the option to either spend it on themselves or on others before 5pm that same day. The results showed that those who had spent the money on other people were happier than those who used the money on themselves.
2. Kindness can make you feel better about yourself
Research has shown that people who perform kind acts for others tend to get higher levels of psychological flourishing. Psychological flourishing means living an optimal range of human functioning; in a state of positive emotions, positive psychological functioning and positive social functioning.
Acts of kindness have been shown to make the giver feel better about themselves and lead to higher levels of positive emotions.
Whilst getting something back in return shouldn’t be the reason for being kind, it can be nice to feel love back. The beauty is, both givers and receivers of kindness feel good.
Receiving kindness can also help a person feel worthy and seen. Which in turn, can increase their confidence to express kindness to others. Your kindness can spark kind behaviour in the other person or even prompt them to pay it forward to someone else.
4. It can put a smile on your dial (literally)
It takes more facial muscles to frown than smile, so smiling is the way to go. Neuroscience suggests that most people naturally want to mimic someone else’s emotions – your smile can literally be contagious. People’s mirror neurons activate the same area of the brain as if they were experiencing the emotion themselves.
Experiment yourself to see – spend your day in a positive mindset and be courteous to others. You’ll likely notice that your positive vibes increase the number of positive interactions you have.
5. Kindness can help you make connections
Being kind, no matter how small the act, can open up a lot of possibilities to develop social connections with people. Kindness can activate the release of oxytocin in our bodies which allows for bonds between people to be strengthened.
Oxytocin also increases generosity, social confidence and in-group treatment and cohesion and reduces anxiety. Humans are born to connect, and social connections support good mental health and wellbeing. So, if you’re feeling alone or like you need some human interaction, try smiling at a stranger or shouting someone a coffee.
6. It can reduce blood pressure
Oxytocin which is released when being kind causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels, thus reducing blood pressure in a person. Oxytocin is often referred to as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.
7. It can reduce physical pain
Acts of kindness have also been shown to release feel-good neurochemicals in our bodies like dopamine, serotonin and endogenous opioids. With these flooding our bodies, kindness can literally reduce fear and physical pain, improve mood and increase pleasure.
8. Kindness can increase energy
Feeling sluggish? Try an act of kindness. Studies have shown that people feel stronger and more energised after helping others. These same studies also showed results of people feeling less depressed with increased feelings of self-worth as well as increase mental flexibility and self-regulation.
These neurochemicals can also increase motivation and anticipation and improve creativity, focus and attention.
8 simple acts of kindness you can do every day
Here are a few wimple acts of kindness that you can do every day:
1. Hold the door for someone.
2. Acknowledge your neighbour as you walk past.
3. Say, “Thank you, have a nice day,” to your checkout assistant.
4. Smile and look the person in the eyes when you order your coffee.
5. Acknowledge characteristics you value in your friends or family.
6. Put your phone down and give the person your undivided attention.
7. When you hug are friend or family member, squeeze them just a little tighter.
8. Have dinner at the dinner table and ask each other what their favourite thing about their day was.
Tahnee Clark is Lysn’s COO and Head of Clinical. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.