World Kindness Day falls on November 13. But kindness has far greater implications than just being nice to others. And there is a good reason why being kind should be a regular part of your life.
If you’re like so many others, you have been experiencing more than your fair share of stress over the past few years. And it only seems to be getting worse. There is more anger, frustration, and fear, and less compassion and understanding in the world. Just spend some time online and you’ll see evidence of this pretty much anywhere you look.
Many people have gotten stuck in a pattern of chronic stress. And most people recognize that living with chronic stress is harmful. But just how is chronic stress harming you?
Chronic stress causes health issues such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Digestive issues
- Heart disease
- Sleep issues
- Weight gain
- Memory problems
- Mood problems
Chronic stress can impact your life and affect your job, your health, and your relationships. So how do you begin reversing the impacts of stress?
Here at FDNthrive, we talk about our D.R.E.S.S. protocol. D.R.E.S.S. uses diet, rest, exercise, supplementation, and stress management techniques to reverse the damage chronic stress has done to our clients. But there is one powerful stress management technique that is effective and simple to use.
Kindness is good for your health
Normally when we think of stress management, we tend to think about meditation and manicures, not practicing kindness to others. But there is growing research that has shown just how much being kind and showing compassion to others impacts overall stress levels. And this can help improve your health!
People who regularly do acts of kindness for others have been shown to have 23% less cortisol, the stress hormone. Every time an act of kindness is performed, your body will release endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin, all feel-good chemicals in the body. So, you’ll definitely feel good when you are kind to others.
But feeling good is just the start. When you practice kindness regularly, your body experiences these great health benefits.
When you do kind things for others, you may experience an increase in energy. Helping others activates the dopamine reward centers in the brain, making you feel more energetic, calmer, and with a greater feeling of self-worth.
Doing kind things for others can help to lower anxiety. A study by the University of British Columbia had subjects with high levels of anxiety perform at least six acts of kindness for others each week. In only one month, every participant felt significantly more positive. Those with social anxiety noticed a significant decrease in levels of social avoidance.
Being kind to others activates the release of dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that acts as a chemical antidepressant in the brain. These two chemicals help to reduce symptoms of depression.
Decrease in pain
Doing kind things for others causes the body to release endorphins, hormones that make you feel good. But endorphins do more than just boost your mood. They also lower stress levels and act as a natural painkiller. Endorphins mimic the pain-relieving effects of morphine naturally.
Aging more slowly
Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently did a study in which participants used a loving-kindness meditation for 6 weeks. In this study, participants sent kind, loving thoughts to others. They practiced this for 20 minutes a day with one six-hour group meditation each week. At the beginning of the study, during a workshop scientists measured their telomeres. Telomeres are the protective ends of the chromosomes. They are there to protect your chromosomes from damage. But telomeres wear down as we age. The length of telomeres is directly connected to longevity. In this study, the group that had practiced the loving-kindness meditation showed less loss in the length of the telomeres compared to the other group. They weren’t aging as quickly according to the telomeres.
Lower blood pressure
Performing acts of kindness releases oxytocin, which is often referred to as the “love hormone”. But it is far more than that. It is also a powerful anti-stress hormone. When oxytocin is released, the body experiences a decrease in cortisol levels. Blood pressure also decreases. Oxytocin also helps to improve overall heart health, which often suffers when in a chronic state of stress.
Practicing kindness can increase your happiness and your health! It reduces stress, and makes you feel better…body, mind, and spirit!
What can you do to practice kindness?
Practicing kindness doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money. In fact, simple things can make a big difference in your health, and in the lives of others! Here are a few things you can do every day to spread some kindness around. It’s contagious!
Share a smile! Give a random smile to your family members, friends, co-workers, and even strangers!
Pay it forward. Pay for someone’s coffee or food order the next time you’re at the drive-thru.
Send a hand-written thank-you note. You don’t need to write a lot, but hand-written thank you notes are very personal and can be very meaningful.
Hold the door for others.
Give someone a compliment. Do you like that stranger’s shoes? Tell them! Do you like something a loved one did? Let them know!
Look service workers in the eye. Many people take workers in service-based industries for granted. It is rare for customers to look them in the eyes. So, the next time you are at the grocery store or eating out, look your server in the eye and give them a smile. You can transform their whole day, and it benefits your health too!
Stop complaining! That energy is contagious and can impact others. It harms your health as well. Instead, find something to be grateful for and go do something nice for someone else!
Encourage others. A little word of encouragement can change a person’s day or even their life!
Volunteer. Find a great non-profit or charity and volunteer your time. It helps others and gives you a health boost too!
Being kind not only feels good, but it’s good for you! It’s a great way to help improve your health while making the world a better place!