With world kindness day coming up on the 13th November, we wanted to find out exactly why being kind is good for us. It turns out that its not just the person in receipt of your act of kindness who is better off – its also good for the giver. Basically, its a win win situation, and in a world that seems increasingly hostile, we really should be throwing around kindness like confetti. Here are some reasons (aside from the obvious) why being kind is good for us all:
It makes us happier
The simple, “spiritual” goodness that we tap into by being kind is one reason for the feeling of happiness we get out of it, but there is a scientific, physiological reason why being kind makes us grin like Cheshire cats. As Dr David R Hamilton explains, “it is believed that the good feeling we get [from acting out kindness] is due to elevated levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine, which we know as endogenous opioids. They cause elevated levels of dopamine in the brain and so we get a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High.” Basically, you’re making yourself giddy with positive vibes when you do something out of kindness.
It Reduces Stress
A recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science has revealed that simple acts of kindness naturally relieves our stress levels. Those who undertook more charitable acts of kindness, however seemingly small these might be, were found to experience less negative emotions towards the end of the day. The researchers concluded that by “engaging in prosocial behaviour [could be] an effective strategy for reducing the impact of stress on emotional functioning,” Tech Times reports. being thoughtful in even the simplest of ways – for example, holding the door open for someone, raises our mood and contributes to our positive mental health, which is good to know given the stresses that are likely to come during the run-up to Christmas!
Its Good for Our Hearts
Not only do random acts of kindness obviously have own our mental wellbeing, the positive affects are also physical. “Emotional warmth produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body…kindness can produce oxytocin and therefore can be said to be cardioprotective,” Dr Hamilton continues. Oxytocin releases a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, dilating them and increasing blood flow to our vital organs. That warm fizzy feeling we get in our chest comes from this “emotional warmth.”
It Slows Down Ageing
Free Radicals and inflammation are the two main culprits known to speed up the ageing process. Oxytocin, the same hormone that we mentioned above, “reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and so slows ageing at source.” Forget your fancy skin creams promising to “banish fine lines and wrinkles,” apparently the secret to looking younger is a compassionate heart!
Kindness Breeds Kindness
This is an obvious one, and we all have those instances that we can remember when an act of kindness upon us encouraged our kind behaviour towards someone else later that day. An article at Wired reported that studies proved just one simple act can inspire “dozens more.” The researchers devised a game whereby selfishness made sense (in the context of the game), yet the groups, which were changed at intervals, became more generous as the game went on – kindness spreads, they concluded. “When people are irrationally generous, others follow suit,” they said. It comes down to basic behavioural mimicry amongst humans. ‘Paying it forward’ clearly isn’t a myth!
So whilst we’ll all be celebrating kindness on the 13th, and hopefully making a special effort to behave more kindly towards the strangers we might see every day on our commute, bear in mind that it serves us all to be like this everyday, and it really doesn’t cost a thing.
Photo Credit: Huffington Post