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Acts of Kindness: Good for Your Mind and Body

by: Jena Monahan

We all know how powerful kindness can be, but did you know that it has been scientifically proven that doing kind acts for others, receiving kind acts, and even witnessing kind acts provides an abundance of physical and emotional benefits? Just to name a few, it can lower you levels of stress hormones, decrease feelings of depression, and increase happiness. 

The following charts outlining the beneficial effects of kindness were made and 

Kindness Increases
The Love Hormone
Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we are anxious or shy in a social situation. Natalie Angier, The New York Times
“About half of participants in one study reported that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth” Christine Carter, UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center
2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness in 136 countries found that people who are altruistic—in this case, people who were generous financially, such as with charitable donations—were happiest overall.
“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% lower likelihood of dying early, and that is 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.” Christine Carter, Author, “Raising Happiness; In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents”
According to research from Emory University, when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up, as if you were the recipient of the good deed—not the giver. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high.”
Like most medical antidepressants, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and makes you happy! Talya Steinberg, Psy.D for Psychology Today

Kindness Decreases
Engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins—the brain’s natural painkiller! Lizette Borreli, Medical Daily
Perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population! Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 1998
A group of highly anxious individuals performed at least six acts of kindness a week. After one month, there was a significant increase in positive moods, relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance in socially anxious individuals. University of British Columbia Study
Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly improved. Mortality is delayed, depression is reduced, and well-being and good fortune are increased. Dr. Stephen Post, Ph.D. bioethics professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Blood Pressure
Committing acts of kindness lowers blood pressure. According to Dr. David R. Hamilton, acts of kindness create emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a “cardioprotective” hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.

Now that we know kindness positively impacts the giver as well as the receiver, we challenge you to engage in one act of kindness every day! Here is a list of simple acts of kindness that can impact your mental and physical health all while making someone's day better.
  • Compliment someone, anyone, it could be a perfect stranger or someone you know.
  • Pay for the meal, coffee, or toll of the person in line behind you.
  • Let someone take your seat. 
  • Help someone carry their bags. 
  • Go through each room in your home and donate items you no longer use or do not need. 
  • Volunteer for a local charity. 
  • Offer to return someone's grocery cart. 
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