We are taught as children that sharing is caring. Kindness is cool, and wishing others well can also do wonders for your own wellness. Being kind has a range of health benefits, and even the smallest acts of caring can go a long way. Human beings are, by nature, social creatures, and interaction with others is key to our existence. Research has shown that social relationships can affect both mental and physical health. What we give to others can reflect on what we give to ourselves. A study published in the journal Neuron showed that mutual social cooperation can activate the areas of the brain associated with reward processing. In fact, being benevolent can bring about helper's high, which refers to the positive emotions that occur in the wake of being charitable (similar to runner's high) due to a release of endorphins. Helping others, thus, can not only affect those around you, it can also impact your own well-being.
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The Health Benefits of Kindness:
- Sparks joy: Being kind and giving joy to others can bring you happiness in turn, and science backs this up. A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology showed that performing acts of kindness can increase happiness. Doing acts of kindness can boost your body's serotonin level, a hormone that can stabilise your mood and foster feelings of happiness and well-being. Kindness can also boost dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation, pleasure and memory.
- Alleviates anxiety: A study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies presented that caring for others and being kind can reduce anxiety, and increase happiness and empathy. Another study published in Emotion presented that engaging in kind acts can increase positive affect (PA)—low positive affect is associated with social anxiety.
- Reduces cortisol levels: Kindness can help to decrease your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, thus reducing your stress levels. Research published in Clinical Psychological Science suggested that small acts of kindness for others may help to alleviate effects of stress, generate more positive emotion, and improve overall mental health.
- Releases oxytocin: Kindness can also boost oxytocin, also known as the "love hormone". Oxytocin promotes social bonding and feelings of trust. It can also lower blood pressure and benefit your heart.
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- Boosts self-esteem: Making others feel good can make you feel good about yourself. Kindness can increase your sense of self-worth and compassion. A study published in the Journal of Adolescence showed that helpful and kind behaviour towards strangers can positively impact self-esteem in adolescents.
- May increase longevity: With so many benefits for your overall well-being, kindness may also help you to live longer. A study in Psychological Science presented that providing social and emotional support to others could reduce mortality. Dr. Shreya Chakravarty, psychologist, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad, says, "A sincere act of kindness is good for increase in positive emotions and satisfaction with life, and may provide a possibility to live a healthier and longer life."
This World Kindness Day, be kind to others, be kind to yourself.
Disclaimer: The above points have been verified by Dr. Shreya Chakravarty, psychologist, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad