Nov. 13, 2023—When you're kind to others, you make their day a bit better. But did you know that you also benefit? Studies show that kindness can improve health and happiness.
A positive effect
According to the American Psychological Association, engaging in acts of kindness toward other people is linked to more contentment. Even remembering or seeing other people's kind acts can boost well-being.
Research suggests that when these kind acts take place face-to-face—for example, giving a cup of coffee to a stranger instead of donating money online to a nonprofit—there's even more benefit. Our brains are wired to be social, and making a little extra effort to connect with others is more rewarding than actions that don't involve personal connection.
Similarly, the emotional and health rewards of kindness are greater when the kind acts are voluntary and random rather than required and scheduled.
When you go out of your way to do something nice for another person, healthy hormones are stimulated, says the AARP. Each one plays an important role in maintaining health.
- Oxytocin produces feelings of happiness and contentment.
- Serotonin lowers anxiety and lifts happiness.
- Endorphins are your body's natural painkillers.
Kind acts also reduce cortisol, a stress hormone that can be harmful at high levels and for long periods of time.
Besides simply making you feel happy, kindness can:
- Improve heart health.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Reduce stroke risk.
- Support your immune system.
- Reduce depression and anxiety symptoms.
Throughout your busy day, you may not think you have the time to bestow random acts of kindness on others. But the fact is that it doesn't take much time, effort or money to be kind.
Here are five ideas for acts of kindness. Let them inspire you to come up with more ways to help someone else while boosting your well-being at the same time.
- Text a friend to wish them a great day and say you're thinking about them.
- Hold the door open for someone who has their hands full.
- Give someone a genuine compliment.
- Support a local business.
- Participate in a neighborhood cleanup.
Looking for ways to commit to kindness? Volunteering is a great way to make it a lasting habit.
- AARP. "6 Ways Kindness Is Good for You." https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2022/health-benefits-of-kindness.html.
- American Psychiatric Association. "The Mental Health Benefits of Simple Acts of Kindness." https://www.psychiatry.org/News-room/APA-Blogs/Mental-Health-Benefits-Simple-Acts-of-Kindness.
- American Psychological Association. "The Case for Kindness." https://www.apa.org/news/apa/kindness-mental-health.
- American Psychological Association. "When Doing Good Boosts Health, Well-Being." https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2020/09/doing-good-boosts-health.