The biggest reason why we should all strive to be kind in everyday life is simply the fact that it is the right thing to do. However, if you are like most people, you might often wonder, “What’s in it for me?” The answer: A lot. A lot is in it for you if you make kindness part of your personality. In fact, science indicates that being kind can lower your stress levels, give your heart health a boost, and maybe even extend your life — and those are just some of the health benefits. Let’s talk about some of the many ways that kindness is good for you.
Release Feel-Good Hormones
Serotonin is one of the feel-good hormones in the human body. It gets released when you exercise, eat carbohydrates, or do something good for others (what is known as a “helper’s high). Therefore, if you’re feeling down, the best way to lift yourself up might be to do something good for someone else. You could try volunteering for a good cause, treating a friend to lunch, or surprising your significant other by taking care of some chores around the house.
Ease Social Anxiety
If you feel a little nervous or anxious in social situations, you are far from alone. In fact, millions of people around the globe suffer from some sort of unease when they are interacting with other people. Could kindness be the cure to social anxiety. Well… maybe a partial cure.
A study from the folks at the University of British Columbia noted, “social anxiety is associated with low positive affect (PA), a factor that can significantly affect psychological well-being and adaptive functioning.” The study also found that individuals who engaged in kind acts had increased PA.
Help Your Heart
Oxytocin is another hormone that gets released when you engage in kind acts. It is commonly known as the “bonding” hormone that helps mothers feel close to their babies and helps spouses feel a strong attachment for each other. But it also helps to dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
Chronic inflammation is a serious health problem that can damage cells throughout the body and contribute to the development of serious diseases, including cancer. Research suggests that being kind can actually reduce inflammation because acts of compassion stimulate the vagus nerve, which is partially responsible for controlling levels of inflammation in the body.
Did you know that UCLA has a kindness institute? Yep, the famous college hosts the Bedari Kindness Institute, which studies kindness from a scientific point of view. Speaking to BBC, the institute’s inaugural director stated, “Living with people who treat you, at best, with disregard or a lack of concern, and at worst with open hostility, is bad for you. It shortens your life, quite literally. Conversely, both receiving kindness from others, and providing kindness, both of those things are the antithesis of this toxic stress situation. And they’re good for you.”
There are very few people who would openly admit to being prejudice. The fact is, however, that most people do harbor at least some form of negative feelings toward groups that are different from them. They might not even realize that they have such negative feelings, but it is human nature to group other people and label them in our heads.
Actively trying to be more kind can help you to both recognize and fight prejudice. For example, if someone tends to have negative ideas about a certain ethnic group, gender, or religion, looking for ways to be nice to people of that group can go a long way toward toward helping that person recognize the good qualities of people in that group.
Save a Life
Every year, countless individuals around the globe decide to take their own life. Some of them survive and recovery, but others are now lost to us. An article from Psychology Today listed the six different reasons why people commit suicide, one of which is “They’re crying out for help.” Another is “They’re depressed.” You never know when you might bump into someone who is feeling so lonely, unnoticed, and depressed that they are in danger of becoming suicidal — and you never know how a small act of kindness might impact them in a positive way.
How to Be Kinder
Here are a few tips to help you improve your health by being kind to others:
- Practice your listening skills. Take the time to really hear what people have to say, instead of formulating an answer in your head while they are still talking.
- Make it your custom to smile. A sincere smile is an act of kindness. Simply making eye contact with others and giving them a big grin can do a lot to brighten their day.
- Respond to aggression with mildness. If someone is unbelievably rude to you, resist the temptation to bite back. Instead, you can try to defuse the situation by saying something like, “Are you having a hard day?”
- Broaden your circle. Do you know of someone at work or school who seems lonely or depressed? Maybe they are just shy and unsure of how to connect with others. Taking the time to notice them and get to know them is a great way to show kindness!
It’s cool to be kind! Use the comments section to let us know how kindness has enhanced your life.